Friday, June 3, 2016

A Trip Report: Kuwait Airways, Abu Dhabi to Kuwait (March 2016)

A Trip Report: Kuwait Airways (March 2016)
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Kuwait Airways is the national airline of Kuwait.  As Kuwait has gone through ups and downs, so has the airline.  In the late 80’s, Kuwait Airways as going through an expansion and was increasing airplane and routes.  The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 put a halt to that expansion, and since then Kuwait Airways has been slowly trying to rebuild itself.  The airline recently announced a major expansion with new aircraft orders and upgraded airport facilities. 

It had been almost 20 years since I had flown Kuwait Airways – I flew it back in 1994 from New York to Kuwait via London.  Since the war had just finished, there was a lot of security surrounding the plane and the boarding process and we had to go around Iraq thus adding about 3 hours to our flight time.  The service was decent at that time, but from my understanding there had not been major upgrades since that time.  In April 2016, we were flying from Abu Dhabi to Kuwait and we chose to fly Kuwait Airways because 1) they were starting to invest in their fleet and service so I wanted to check out the improved Kuwait Airways and 2) the only direct flights were operated by either Etihad or Kuwait and I prefer not to fly with Etihad.

Even though we were flying roundtrip, I did not book both sectors on Kuwait Airways.  I booked the outbound on Kuwait Airways, but the return I booked on Gulf Air.  I did this for 2 reasons – 1) I wanted to try a different airline on the return, and 2) Kuwait Airways operates Kuwait – Muscat – Abu Dhabi – Kuwait so to get back to Abu Dhabi from Kuwait I would have to stop in Muscat (and I have already been there).  As I was combining two airlines into one ticket, I booked my ticket through a travel website.  Kuwait Airways is a full service airline so seat assignments, checked baggage, soft drinks, on-board entertainment, and carry-ons are all complimentary.   After I booked my travel, I went to Kuwait Airways website to manage my booking, pre-select my seat, and specify my meal option.   Their website is generally user-friendly, but sometimes it had some issues so I would switch between the website and the app on my phone in terms of managing my booking.  Through the website and app, I was able to check-in but could not receive my boarding pass so I did that at the airport.

Kuwait Airways flies out of Terminal 1 at Abu Dhabi International.  Check-in was smooth and we checked our bags and received our boarding passes.  We proceeded through immigration (there were not many people in the terminal) and waited for our flight.  The flight is scheduled to depart Abu Dhabi at 5:10pm and arrive Kuwait at 5:50pm, with a flight time of 1hr45mins.  Terminal 1 is the older terminal at Abu Dhabi and has small boarding gates (not the best terminal in the world) so we decided to wait in the general waiting area before proceeding to our gate.  The only good thing about Abu Dhabi International is that they have free, and fast, wifi available (strong enough to skype or stream youtube videos).  Around 4pm we proceeded to our gate, but the plane had not arrived.  The plane arrived around 4:30pm, and by that time all the passengers had come to the boarding area.  The plane had picked up passengers in Muscat, and was now picking up passengers in Abu Dhabi so maybe that’s why it was a light load in Abu Dhabi (they do not have rights to transport passengers from Muscat to Abu Dhabi).  Considering it was a light load, we all boarded at the same time and were seated rather quickly in the plane.

The plane was an Airbus A320 and was in a 3-3 layout.  You could not tell the age of the plane from the outside, but inside the plane did not look new.   We passed through Business Class on our way to Economy, and the Business Class were the older seats that did not lie flat.  Even though the plane looked older, the seats were comfortable and provided a decent ride for the short flight.  Each seat had a pillow on it, and the seat pitch was pretty good – not too tight but generous enough.  The seatback pocket contained the airline magazine, duty free magazine, air sickness bag, as well as headphones.  The in-flight entertainment had definitely been upgraded as there were new PTV’s available on every seat, and each PTV came with a headphone jack and a USB port.  The PTVs were available right away so the passengers could immediately start to watch their videos.  The selection was pretty good and there was enough choice to keep you entertained for any short to medium haul flights.

The plane departed Abu Dhabi generally on time, and once cruising altitude was reached the service started.  Considering the short duration of the flight, the service on the flight was very generous.  A box meal/snack was provided which contained a sandwich, fruit, chocolate, and water.  Given it was only an hour flight, it was a generous serving.   I had ordered a special meal, so that was also accommodating with the special snack pack.  Complimentary soft drinks and juices were served with the snack pack, and later on both tea and coffee were served.  The attendants came by the aisle multiple times during the short flight to offer tea and coffee.  Throughout the short duration of the flight, the attendants were constantly in the aisle.  It was great customer service provided by Kuwait Airways.

As soon as the trays were cleared, it was time to land in Kuwait.  We landed in Kuwait on time and deplaned on the tarmac and took a bus to the terminal.   The immigration and baggage are at Kuwait International definitely needs an upgrade as it looks very old, and can become very cramped very easily.  The baggage claim is on the ground floor, while the floor above is the departure gates.  The terminal upstairs is a mixture of old and new, as there are older sections with not as many services as well as newer sections with more restaurant and other options (the newer gates are a far walk from the older section, and it seems that the airport is going through some additional construction).

Overall, it was a short and pleasant flight with Kuwait Airways.  They provided good customer service and a good experience, especially for this short-haul flight, and the PTVs were modern and had a decent selection.  I would definitely consider taking Kuwait Airways for a short to medium haul flights – given the seat comfort and the age of the plane I am not sure I would take Kuwait Airways long-haul currently.  They are modernizing their fleet with new aircraft, so with the new aircraft and the current service, I would definitely take Kuwait Airways long-haul.

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