Newly launched Kuwaiti premium operator Wataniya Airways has added Cairo to its list of destinations, which also includes Dubai, Bahrain and Beirut.
Wataniya went operational on January 24, at the same time becoming the first airline to offer the OnAir onboard cellphone service on a fully commercial basis. It currently flies the first of four leased Airbus A320s to Dubai twice daily and plans to add Bahrain, Beirut and Cairo by March 3.
The Wataniya offering is exceptionally lavish for a regional operation. The A320s are fitted with 122 seats – compared with a European standard of about 145 – divided between first-class and premium economy cabins. Both cabins will have leather seats from Recaro of Germany.
Inflight entertainment is provided by Thales’ TopSeries i-4000 AVOD system serving 10.6in screens in the 26 first-class seats. Also offered in every seat is laptop power from Airbus KID-Systeme and ports allowing passengers to plug in their own iPods and other MP3 devices and play the content on the screen.
In the 96 premium economy seats Thales’ i-2000 broadcast system delivers six channels of audio to each seat and video to overhead dropdown screens. The channel selector is the same as the unit designed for the Boeing 787 and flew for the first time with Wataniya. There are two laptop power sockets for every three seats.
Completing the IFE/connectivity line-up is OnAir’s text messaging and email capability for passenger mobile devices. “Our impression is that the early reaction from passengers has been very good - we hope to confirm that with surveys in the coming weeks,” says chief executive George Cooper. “The iPod/MP3 connection has also been attracting a lot of interest.”
The airline has not yet activated the OnAir voice capability. “We have started with text messaging and email to gauge passenger reaction,” says Cooper. “If we do switch on voice, we’ll need a capacity of 12 simultaneous calls.”