In a home region where Gulf Gullivers Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad are rapidly becoming major global players, Kuwaiti carrier Wataniya Airways takes a no-frills chic approach towards flying. Launched in January 2009, the airline’s fleet of A320 aircraft are configured with premium economy and business class seats only, while prices are kept low. The airline says its A320’s are configured with the lowest seat density (122 vs. 145 seats on most airlines) of any A320 used on scheduled routes in the world.
Billing itself a ‘premium service airline’ Wataniya has its own dedicated terminal at Kuwait International Airport, and passengers have Wi-Fi access as well as USB and power ports in every seat. The airline’s premium economy class offers 96 seats with a 34-inch seat pitch and the 26 business class seats have a seat pitch of 44 inch. Wataniya currently operates five A320’s, a sixth aircraft is scheduled to be received in June 2010 and a seventh later in 2010. The airline is listed at the Kuwait Stocks Exchange.
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4 March 2010 | 2009 was the year of inflight connectivity in the USA with the rollout of Aircell’s Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on nearly 700 U.S domestic aircraft (roughly a quarter of the domestic fleet). Inflight Internet access is now being offered (or will soon be offered) by 10 North American airlines. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, a similar development is taking place. Airlines such as Emirates and Wataniya currently offer GSM-based connectivity on cellphones and pda’s, and several carriers in the region will follow during 2010, with onboard cellular as well as Wi-Fi access.
Introduced in March 2008, passengers on 70 Emirates aircraft (out of Emirates’ 145-strong fleet) can currently use their cellphones and pda’s to make voice calls and send sms-messages. Emirates says 200 flights a day throughout 55 countries are currently mobile-equipped and each month passengers send and receive over 140,000 sms texts. The airline is installing the Aeromobile system at 2 to 3 aircraft a month and by mid-2010 will also add GPRS technology to its cellular service, providing pda users who need a quick internet fix with a limited Internet connection. Aeromobile together with Panasonic will also equip Turkish Airlines with full inflight broadband when the first of the airline’s 12 new B777-300ERs and 10 A330-300s enters service in the fourth quarter of 2010.
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