CEO Interview: Wataniya Airways sees strong growth opportunities


“Competition is good in any business; we are a fairly young airline, but we have managed to grow consistently and have gained a very good market share so far”, says Wataniya Airways CEO, George Cooper in an exclusive CEO Q&A with CAPA.

CAPA: May and June were frenetic months for Wataniya in terms of network development, with new routes to Rome, Vienna, Alexandria and Istanbul. How are these new routes performing and what else is planned in terms of fleet and network expansion for the balance of 2010 and 2011?

Wataniya Airways’ new European destinations have attracted a large number of travellers for this summer season; the feedback we have had so far has exceeded our expectations.

In line with its plans, Wataniya Airways has taken receipt of six aircraft brand new Airbus A320 aircraft so far, and will be receiving a seventh in October. As yet, no decisions have been made on further aircraft. We are studying opportunities in a number of cities within the range of our aircraft.

CAPA: Wataniya has a unique offering in the Kuwait market, indeed the broader region. How is this product being accepted? Are further product enhancements planned?

In offering premium services, Wataniya Airways has succeeded in attracting a large number of travellers; we offer advantageous services and schedules geared to the specific demands of discerning travellers flying to and from Kuwait.

Operating A320 aircraft with only 122 seats allows Wataniya Airways to offer passengers more comfort and space than any other scheduled airline within the same aircraft class. First Class offers industry leading comfort, utility, and personal service, while Premium Economy delivers business class ease and comfort for an economy fare. In Kuwait, Wataniya Airways operates from Sheikh Saad Terminal, delivering unprecedented levels of exclusivity, convenience, and efficiency to all our guests.

In the past year we have launched our frequent flyer program "Wataniya Diwan", and most recently, launched our Wataniya Holidays program, to add more advantages and offer our guests an extremely comprehensive package of services.

CAPA: Kuwait is an increasingly competitive place, with Jazeera refocusing on the city and foreign airlines expanding their capacity. How are the three home-based carriers positioned to compete in such a tough environment?

Competition is good in any business; we are a fairly young airline, but we have managed to grow consistently and have gained a very good market share so far. By offering premium services which appeal to travellers, we are able to clearly differentiate ourselves from other airlines.

CAPA: Do you see the Wataniya premium-focused business model have further application in other markets in the Middle East?

Of course!  The Middle East is a very competitive market and continually changing, but where offered, the Wataniya Airways product has been welcomed positively. We consistently monitor the market for new opportunities and will continue to do so when considering future operations.

CAPA: Air Arabia recently announced a new base in Jordan. Do you see further proliferation of LCCs in the region?

It is impossible to speculate on future economic trends. However, low cost carriers are very popular in many parts of the world and it’s clearly a successful business model which will no doubt continue to evolve. 

CAPA: Kuwait has an open skies policy, which opens up opportunities for carriers like Wataniya. Is liberalisation to/from/within the Middle East progressing to your expectations? Do you see other impediments to growth?

The open skies policy is a very welcome initiative and makes the region much more accessible for many travellers. As the Middle East continues to develop as a regional centre for both business and leisure, there will always be demand for new infrastructure and increased flexibility on airspace. 

Fortunately, as a region we are also blessed with resources with which to respond to growth in air travel, both in the continued development of infrastructure, not only in airports but, also in hotels, office space and industrial centres, and in the availability of airspace for the forseeable future.   

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