Third Kuwait carrier by January

Wataniya Airways Chairman Abdulsalam Al Bahar, second right, CEO George Cooper, third left, after unveiling the new airline. (REUTERS)


Kuwait's Wataniya Airways will start operations in January 2009, its holding company – Kuwait National Airways, said yesterday, adding that it plans to list its shares on the Kuwait stock market by year-end.

The third carrier to take off from Kuwait after Kuwait Airways and budget carrier Jazeera Airways, Wataniya Airways will begin operations with a fleet of two Airbus A320 aircraft, the company said in a statement.

It added Wataniya would be positioned as Kuwait's short-haul premium airline. "It will offer a point-to-point service from Kuwait to destinations south and west of the country in the Gulf and Middle East," the company said in the statement.

"The company had reached a deal with Aviation Lease Finance Company [Alafco]to lease three A320 planes to be delivered in 2009," Wataniya Airways's Chief Executive, George Cooper, was quoted by Reuters as saying. He also said the company is currently in talks with another firm to lease six more A320s for delivery from 2010.

The new airline is pitched to compete with Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways.

Meanwhile, the listing would make the carrier the fourth listed Arab airline following Sharjah's Air Arabia, Royal Jordanian and Jazeera Airways.

"In the weeks and months ahead before we take to the air in January 2009, we will be announcing a series of innovations and developments that will make our airline not only unique in this region but in many respects unique across the world," said Cooper. Kuwait Projects Company (Kipco) owns a 30 per cent stake in Kuwait National Airways, along with other corporate investors. Established in 2006 with a share capital of 50 million Kuwaiti dinars (Dh690m), the airline sold 70 per cent of its shares to the public in the same year and according to Cooper, there is no plan for another offering.