Wataniya confirmed as OnAir launch customer
The wavelet of good news from OnAir rolls on, with the Geneva-based onboard cellphone provider confirming new Kuwait carrier Wataniya Airways as its launch customer.
Wataniya opened for business on Saturday, flying its first paying passengers to Dubai from the Royal Terminal at Kuwait International Airport. The all-premium service offering included Mobile OnAir, allowing passengers throughout the 122-seat Airbus A320 to use their own phones or BlackBerry-type devices to send and receive text messages and emails, and access the Internet. The Internet can also be reached with laptops fitted with GSM data cards.
The Mobile OnAir air-to-ground satellite link is provided by Inmarsat’s 432kbit/sec SwiftBroadband service, making Wataniya one of the first airlines in the world to use this capability on a fully operational basis.
The Wataniya launch is of great symbolic significance to OnAir. The company had to look on in mounting frustration as rival AeroMobile basked in the limelight radiated over the past ten months by its own launch customer, Emirates. The Dubai carrier is equipping its entire fleet of more than a hundred widebodies in a successful and incident-free programme that has drawn attention away from the fact that OnAir is actually associated with more airlines than its competitor.
OnAir’s tally of committed carriers now stands at 11: Wataniya plus Air Asia and its Air Asia X subsidiary, Airblue of Pakistan, British Airways, Jazeera Airways, Kingfisher, Oman Air, Royal Jordanian, Shenzhen Airlines and TAM of Brazil. In addition, bmi and TAP Portugal are in mid-trial, while Ryanair continues to make the world wait for the launch of what would be the biggest onboard cellphone evaluation so far.
AeroMobile can list just three confirmed customers besides Emirates – Saudi Arabian Airlines, Qantas and V Australia – plus triallist Malaysia Airlines.