Kuwait's Wataniya Airways to take wings in January

Business Materials 27 May 2008 07:03 (UTC +04:00)

Kuwait's new airline Wataniya Airways will start flying in January next year and hopes to attract Kuwaiti business and leisure travellers on short-haul routes, GN reported.

This would be the second privately owned airline in Kuwait, and the fourth in the region. It will offer direct services from Kuwait to destinations south and west of the country in the Gulf and the wider region using the A320 aircraft.

The airline said its flight schedules and destinations would focus on "Kuwaiti needs", placing it in direct competition for local passengers with the country's flag carrier Kuwait Airways and budget operator Jazeera Airways.

Chief executive George Cooper told Gulf News that the airline will have three leased A320s in 2009 and it will acquire six more in the following two years.

Wataniya, which is owned 30 per cent by Kuwaiti corporate investors and 70 per cent by individuals, will consider both Airbus and Boeing planes when it decides to buy its own planes.

Since the airline is leasing A320s for its operations, the European plane is likely to be considered more favourably.

"We are not at that point of decision-making yet, but more likely we will buy A320s in the future," Cooper said.

Wataniya will offer 122 seats in a two-class configuration, which is the "lowest number of seats on an A320 operated by a commercial airline," Cooper said.

He did not say which routes the airline will serve, but the UAE would be among the first destinations. Egypt is the only destination in North Africa that the airline plans to serve.

Unveiling the company's corporate identity and airline colours in Kuwait, chairman Abdul Salam Al Bahar said Wataniya will "become a symbol of Kuwait and the Kuwaiti people". The airline has promised 'a series of innovations and developments' in comfort and luxury that it said would make it unique in the region. However, Cooper said the airline is not styled after the business-class-only model, which has struggled on long-haul Europe-US routes.

Kuwait Projects Company (Kipco) is the largest corporate stakeholder in Wataniya, which was set up in 2006 with a share capital of 50 million Kuwaiti dinars.

The airline also sold 70 per cent of its stock to the public in an initial public offering that year. It plans to list its shares on the Kuwaiti stock exchange by the end of 2008.