Kuwait's Wataniya Airways suspends operations for second time in history

Airline that resumed operations after a six-year hiatus in 2017 says circumstances "that were unavoidable" led to abandoning operations less than a year after resumption
Kuwait's Wataniya Airways suspends operations for second time in history
In August, the DGCA warned Wataniya Airways that it faced a three month suspension if it didn’t resolve consistent flight delays and cancellations by September 6. If the issues remained unresolved after that date, the airline would be stripped of its licence to operate flights permanently, the DGCA said.
By Shayan Shakeel
Tue 04 Sep 2018 11:13 AM

Wataniya Airways is temporarily suspending operations after “unexpected circumstances" that could not be avoided, board chairman Ali al Fozan announced yesterday.

The suspension is the second time in its brief history that the carrier has had to halt its flight operations.

“Three planes going out of service,” have left the carrier with just one aircraft available for commercial flights, Al Fozan claimed during a press conference in Kuwait yesterday as the reason behind “temporarily” suspending operations.

Wataniya had expected to add two additional aircraft and bring its fleet to six as of last month, he said.

But of the four aircraft it was operating, one Airbus A320 needs to have an engine replaced, while two others left service after the carrier ended a wet lease contract with Olympus Airways over objections by Kuwait’s civil aviation authority - the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

These factors, Al Fozan said, slashed operations by 50 percent.

“[Wataniya] cannot operate with one plane so we decided to suspend operations temporarily until return of the second plane,” Al Fozan said during the press conference.

Wataniya and DGCA are in discussions about compensation for passengers whose flights were delayed or cancelled, Al Fozan added. 

Regulator warnings

In August, the DGCA warned Wataniya Airways that it faced a three month suspension if it didn’t resolve consistent flight delays and cancellations by September 6. If the issues remained unresolved after that date, the airline would be stripped of its licence to operate flights permanently, the DGCA said. 

At the press conference, Al Fozan stresed that the carrier's financial position reamins good and was adamant that Wataniya Airways would return.

“We are committed to complying with all decisions and regulations of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and are keen on offering services at highest standards,” he said, adding that "the board is determined to take necessary measures to revive Wataniya in near future."

Concerns remain

However, analysts have expressed concerns over whether the airline’s troubles are more financial than operational in nature, questioning whether it would be able to return to the skies again.

“There is a lot of competition in the Kuwaiti market, and players such as Al Jazeera, for instance, are more established,” said Leonard Favre, managing director and aviation analyst at 1BlueHorizon Group.

“Wataniya also operated aircraft on leases, and the lease rates were too high to maintain,” he added.

Return to the skies

Borne out of Kuwait’s air services liberalisation directive in 2005, Wataniya Airways first commenced operations in January 2009, only to abandon commercial flight operations 25 months later, citing financial difficulties.

With KD 10 million in new financial backing from Golden Falcon Aviation, the airline’s lessor and largest shareholder, Wataniya renewed its air operator's certificate and returned to the skies after a six year hiatus in July 2017.

It went through much publicised appearances at the Dubai Airshow last year, when it signed a deal with Airbus for 25 A320s, and the Farnborough Airshow earlier this year where it agreed to buy 10 Embraer 195 narrowbody aircraft.

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