From left: Dr Hamad Al Tuwaijri, Chairman of Golden Falcon Aviation and Ali Al Fouzan, Chairman of Wataniya Airways after signing an agreement for 25 Airbus A320neo aircraft. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Kuwait-based Wataniya Airways announced a $2.68 billion deal with Airbus on Tuesday to purchase 25 A320neo aircraft as the carrier plans to expand its network around the world, having restarted its operations in July 2017.

The carrier also signed options deals for more A320s, and will receive the first of the purchased aircraft in 2022, though that it likely to be pushed to 2021, according to Hamad Al Tuwaijri, chairman of Golden Falcon Aviation, the aircraft provider for Wataniya.

The airline, which currently has two narrow-body Airbus A320s, plans to have a total of 50-60 aircraft by 2025.

“We already have lease aircraft. We [will be] inducting 5-7 aircraft every year from now till the purchased aircraft [are delivered],” Al Tuwaijri told Gulf News in an interview.

 The range of the aircraft from Kuwait City [allows us to] reach India. We will also be going to the ‘stan’ countries, Russia, and Eastern Europe. We [currently] fly to 11 destinations”

 - Hamad Al Tuwaijri | Chairman of Golden Falcon Aviation 

Operationally, Wataniya will be using its new fleet to fly to India, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

“The range of the aircraft from Kuwait City [allows us to] reach India. We will also be going to the ‘stan’ countries, Russia, and Eastern Europe. We [currently] fly to 11 destinations, and we will be increasing by the summer when we have more aircraft to 23 destinations,” Al Tuwaijri said.

Restarting operations

In 2011, Wataniya ceased its operations after three years in business because of its financial situation, and only resumed operations in July 2017. But Al Tuwaijri and Ali Al Fouzan, chairman of the airline who was also speaking on Tuesday, believe the new business model is more realistic and will allow the carrier to grow.

They said that the former business model was designed to position the company as a luxury, narrow-body airline, which “cannot fit in the market.”

“We’re coming up with a new business model. We’re doing the hybrid low-cost, which will have three classes. It’s similar, let’s say, to flydubai; we have a business class; we have Wataniya premium … which is full-meal and full-service; and then Wataniya seat, which is just the seat,” Al Tuwaijri said.

The company currently has a capital 20 million Kuwaiti dinars, with Golden Falcon Aviation planning to inject another 20 million Kuwaiti dinars into the airline next year.

Re-listing shares

Financially, Wataniya expects to be profitable in its second or third year of operations, the chairman said.

When the business ceased operations in 2011, it also delisted its shares off Kuwait’s bourse. And Al Tuwaijri said the company plans to re-list on the country’s stock exchange when it turns a profit.

Kuwait already has two other local airlines; Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways, but Al Tuwaijri believes Wataniya can grow its market share in the Gulf country. He pointed that currently, national airlines in Kuwait account for 30 per cent of the market share, with the rest taken by foreign carriers.

“The reason is lack of aircraft; we don’t have enough aircraft as national carriers, and that’s why we are injecting more aircraft to fill that gap. In normal circumstances, it’s 80 per cent for the national carriers, and 20 per cent for foreign carriers,” he said.