WATANIYA Airways, Kuwait’s new premium service airline, launched twice daily scheduled flights between Kuwait and Dubai on January 24 after it took early delivery of its first Airbus A320. It also announced that additional routes to Bahrain and Beirut will commence this month.
At the initial launch Paul Sies, chief commercial officer, Wataniya Airways said that the airline was looking after the needs of its own home market, primarily targeting the business traveller in Kuwait. As the only scheduled airline to use the new Sheikh Saad General Aviation Terminal in Kuwait, passengers have queue free check in and crowd free departure lounges. The airline is currently negotiating with immigration authorities to have visa application forms on board from Dubai.
When asked about setting up an airline in troubling times, Mr Sies said, “Setting up an airline always has many challenges….. especially when you are looking to set up a very special service for the guest. Finding the right people with the right mentality is and will always be a challenge. Keeping them motivated and on their toes to every day deliver a consistent product surely will be a challenge.”
He said that the variations in the current economic climate gave them both ‘great advantages and some challenges’. Fuel for example, was higher at the initial planning stages but was a major advantage for the airline now, also, the availability of equipment and staff was very tight one year ago, now there is a free choice in terms of new equipment, and ‘getting staff is not an issue at all,” said Sies.
“These issues have given a huge advantage compared to the initial plan. The decline in demand is not seen drastically yet in the Kuwait market (which is 70 per cent of our budgeted demand). We have an advantage being a new carrier in the market offering a premium product which was desperately needed in the Kuwait market,” he said.
“This for now shows a positive result, that we are above our targets regarding market share. Having the right product at the right timings at the right price we believe will give us an advantage over others in the market.”
We believe that the above factors will give us a good base to get through a challenging 2009,” he added.
By end 2010 Wataniya will have a fleet of seven aircraft. It offers multi-lingual guest service agents on the ground in Kuwait to assist passengers, and complimentary Marhaba service to all passengers in Dubai. Whilst the airline’s marketing focus is on its home market and outbound travel from Kuwait, the Dubai based team and GSA, the Planet Group, are working with corporate clients and regional travel trade to support the promotion of the carrier among business travellers.
The airline offers 122 seats on an A320, with 26 seats in first class, 96 in premium economy and a 34 inch seat pitch. Passengers can also using their own mobile phones or PDA’s to send and receive text messages, emails and access the internet while flying.
by Caroline Tapken
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