Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kuwait - What is happening to the aviation sector?

By Muna Al-Fuzai, Kuwait Times

What is going on with Kuwait’s state-owned airlines? Is the government facing a tough time? Is competition very high? What makes others win while we keep faltering? Look at Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. They entered into service quite recently and now they are famous. Kuwait Airways was launched in 1953, and today it is teetering on the brink of extinction. What is the secret of regional airways’ success?

The above-mentioned airlines offer excellent services and continuously improve customer service, aircrafts and facilities offered on board to all passengers , be it economy, business or first class! Clearly, their target is not to attract customers for one flight, but winning their hearts for a lifetime. That is what I call talent and success. So marketing is their key to success and they have done their homework well. I believe that Kuwait Airways failed due to the lack of a marketing policy , strategy and a business plan.

A report released by a fact-finding commission in 2012 on the status of Kuwait Airways and its subsidiaries have stated that it incurred KD 591 million losses in 15 years. Of this, KD 164 million was lost in the form of huge wasteful blunders. For example, many overseas operations failed to achieve a target revenue. The report cited many reasons like failure to conduct proper feasibility studies. The bottom line here is that the marketing policy was skewed. I wonder why employees from this department were sacked. I would say it is wasta!

It is not news that many Kuwaitis and expatriates don’t wish to travel in Kuwait Airways unless they run out of options. I have flown in both Emirates and Kuwait Airways. Most passengers dread the delay that may set in. No one wishes to be stranded in the airport for several hours during a short trip from Kuwait to Dubai! In Emirates Airways, no delay will last for more than an hour, but Kuwait Airways takes hours to resolve the issue! It is a matter of shame for Kuwait’s oldest carrier.

In UAE, several private carriers have entered into service to cater to the needs of all passengers in the Gulf region. Wataniya Airways is another example that came to an abrupt end after a short stint. It entered into service in 2009 but completely halted operations in 2011.Reasons for this vary from stiff competition faced from other carriers and high fuel prices. There were two other Kuwait-based carriers operating at the same time – Kuwait Airways, and Jazeera Airways, a budget carrier. Wataniya positioned itself as a luxury service provider. Sadly, it met a natural end.

Kuwait Airways has not been able to keep up with the needs of today’s customers. I feel sorry for the situation it is in because it is a national carrier. I do not care much about the people who caused this fall. But, I guess the board members knew this is inevitable. Their staff members are asking for salary raises and are staging strikes. I am sure this is the last thing the management wants to deal with. Crisis comes in different packages! There can be no end to this unless this company is sold to a to a third party. Maybe selling it to the UAE or Qatar would not be a bad idea. I think they will be able to do a better job.


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