Trip Report: London-Manila in Kuwait Airways’ Business Class

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DISCLAIMER: tickets for these flight were offered to Aviacionline by Kuwait Airways (Business class tickets are expensive!). However, our editorial independence is a non-negotiable value and all views expressed here are mine and mine alone, regardless of who paid for the ticket.

After a day of planespotting at Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel, it was time to get our trip going. It would be a week of almost nonstop travel, first with Kuwait Airways all the way to Manila and back, then with RwandAir to Johannesburg and back.

Renaissance Hotel was magnificent, and the view below was common ground from the room windows. It’s just nonstop traffic; planespotting paradise, to put it simply. Our photographer Thiago (his Instagram is @trevisan26_aviation) would join me in these two trips, and planespotting is so much better with friends.

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To get to the terminal, HotelHoppa saved us once again. While the prices may be high, it’s definitely a great option since it drops you right at the door.

And damn, I’m repeating myself here but this airport is so fantastic. Hard to believe I was in Heathrow.

We had arrived with some hours to spare so we could do everything with ease and have some time in whatever lounge they offered (we couldn’t see which one they used, and if they used one, at LHR).

KU102 KWI-LHR

We faced no line and we were directed to an Economy class counter, which was free: apparently the load was very light that day.

The check-in agents were fantastic, and I don’t think they were really used to passengers asking for the lounge, because they were quite confused with what to do. Anyway, documents checked as quickly as they could, lounge invitations written out, boarding passes printed and off we went.

Terminal 2 is a monster; from the safety screening to our gate, I would say there would be some 30 minutes walking.

Our boarding would be in a gate on the other side of the terminal, which meant we’d need to walk via the underground path. The lounge they offered, however, was in the first batch of gates (thus before the underground walkway), so the check-in agent warned us not to be late for boarding.

In Heathrow, Kuwait Airways offered the Plaza Premium Lounge. I found it to be very good for a third-party lounge.

There was plenty of seating space, and it was an overall very pleasing space.

There was a hot food buffet and lots of drinking options, which came in handy.

And the food was great, by the way.

Some 90 minutes before departure we started the very long walk to our gate. The terminal has less flights than you would expect, but when you consider that all Star Alliance flights leave from here — and many with widebodies — you can assume the passenger flow is high nevertheless.

And the first gates area was particularly full of people.

The airport infrastructure is just incredible. This was the escalator to the underground walkway; we crossed the taxiway to get to the other concourse.

Twenty minutes later, we got there. Our aircraft was a sight to behold, as all Triple Sevens are.

Sporting Kuwait Airways’ new livery, which was introduced with the delivery of their first 777-300, 9K-AOJ was already being loaded for our flight.

Named «Al-Mesila», the airframe was delivered brand new to Kuwaiti’s national carrier on May 2017, according to Planespotters.net.

Because the load was light, boarding was started with time to spare, although they did not call priority passengers first. When I asked him, the gate agent said that’s because one of the boarding bridges was broken down so they were only using one. But still, there was no rush.

Indeed, everyone was boarding via the front door.

This is how we found our cabin — we were the first ones to board Business class.

Our first impression of the cabin was generally good. Kuwait Airways offers Business Class in a 2-2-2 configuration — thus, not offering aisle access to everyone.

I suspect that this choice of theirs happen because they also have, in the front of the aircraft, the «Royal Class», which is a First Class, with eight closed seats. Since they need to differentiate both, they went onto the densification path for Business Class.

In the 777-300, the airline offers eight Royal Class seats spread across two rows, a first cabin with two rows of Business Class and, behind the first door, four more rows of Business Class.

Then there is a Premium Economy cabin (seen below) with six rows of 3-3-3 seats, and then the rest of the aircraft is Economy Class. Kuwait Airways offers a more comfortable Economy cabin than most airlines, since their configuration is a 3-3-3 — most Triple Sevens have a 3-4-3 setup.

The seat by my side, luckily, was empty, so the lack of direct aisle access would not be a problem. And anyway, during the flight I’d go to the row in front, where Thiago was, so we could eat together and have a chat.

As usual in most Middle Eastern carriers, Business class passengers were treated with a round of dates…

…and arabic coffee.

Usually just before pushback, Kuwait Airways plays a prayer, one that sounded quite beautiful. It’s in these moments I wish I could read Arabic.

Safety instructions were also played in sign language, which is very uncommon but a great deal.

At 16h30, fifteen minutes before scheduled departure, boarding was completed. Only 109 passengers were onboard: three in Royal Class, 21 in Business and 85 in both Economy cabins. Pushback was started seven minutes later.

My seat was one of the bests in the house, watching the GE90 from upclose.

At 16h43 we started taxi, and as usual in Heathrow, it was a very long one.

After an Emirates A380 and an United 767-300, it was finally our turn. At 17h00, Captain Abdulaziz Muwaffaq started to accelerate the pair of GE90, and the aircraft easily responded.

We were easily below the Triple Seven’s maximum take-off weight of 331 tons, weighing 254.9 tons only, of which, 51 were of fuel. Oscar Juliet flew graciously, providing passengers on our side of the aircraft with great overviews of Heathrow as we left the airport.

And the 777’s wingflex is always incredible, especially in the -300 variant. Truly a great piece of machinery.

While I would explore it more thoroughly in the following flight, their entertainment system looked quite on level for today’s standards. The screen had a decent size and, while the touchscreen was quite responsive, it was way easier to use their system with the remote control (given the large distance between seat and screen).

The remote control was really responsive and easy to use.

Once the seatbelt signs were turned off, I jumped to the seat in front to talk with Thiago (in this regard, the 2-2-2 setup is good).

Then, the flight attendant that would serve us through that flight handed us the menu, which was quite pretty and well made — written both in English and Arabic.

The first page had this cute presentation talking about their «culinary panel» and how the menu had been carefully crafted.

The menu looked quite promising, and I picked the chicken option.

Kuwait Airways is famously known as a «dry» airline, meaning it does not offer alcoholic drinks. The options, therefore, were as I would expect.

Before the drinks arrived, they also delivered us these packed necessaires, which were quite pretty.

Its content had pretty much everything — hygiene items were available in the lavatories.

I found the tray table quite small, and it opened from the central console.

First, drinks were delivered, with a tablecloth being set up.

Soon the food — the three courses — arrived in a single tray with wraps over it. While I appreciate the hygiene concerns, I wouldn’t mind receiving them unwrapped, especially when there’s nowhere to put the covers before you eat.

While the presentation is not what you would expect from a premium class, the food quantity was over the top, which I much prefer over presentation.

In our four flights with Kuwait Airways, their employees were truly phenomenal, doing whatever they could to help all passengers. Definitely one of the highlights of their flight experience.

Here, I think it’s important to say that they didn’t necessarily have a «standardized», if you will, way of serving. For instance, in some flights they would bring the food with the wrapping, in some they wouldn’t; in some they’d help me doing my bed, in some they wouldn’t.

But in all interactions I had with them I could see they were doing their genuine best, and this is what I think matters. For me, it’s miles better than that sometimes robotic standardized customer service, which more often than not seems fake and artificial.

Mood lighting was also a cool feature of the cabin, and it was very pleasant.

The logo in the back of the cabin was a nice touch too.

As we finished the meal, sunset was arriving: the flight departed in late afternoon, with scheduled arriving after midnight.

After service, I paid a visit to the lavatory. The faux sink was very pretty, and the quality/quantity of hygiene products was decent too.

As we boarded, we found in each seat a pillow and a large blanket. The pillow was of good quality and so was the blanket.

The seat could be controlled via this control in the central console, quite intuitive indeed.

Last but not least, we’d found in each seat these headphones — which I didn’t use in the first flight — and a bottle of water.

The entertainment system was very intuitive and the touchscreen responded quite well for today’s standards, although I think the choice of movies was quite limited.

For the aviation lunatics like us, the institutional menu had these four pages.

Here I’ve got to add that Kuwait Airways does offer wi-fi onboard their aircraft, but their prices are so insane — USD50 for 180 minutes or 200MB — that it’s not worth it. The network didn’t work in our iPhones either, unfortunately.

During the flight, these small bites were available at request. One, salty…

…and another, sweet. Both were quite good for a six-hour, single-service flight.

As the night started, the mood lighting turned into this deep red. I would only sleep in the second flight, though.

About an hour before arrival, they brought the snack service, which was just the small bites offered in the galley during the flight. I particularly liked the canape and the sandwich, they were simple yet very tasty.

Another high point of Kuwait Airways’ meal service was the cutlery and the plates, which seemed to be of a very high quality.

The flight map, by the way, was not interactive, and it only showed the cities where we’d flown over.

A smooth sail towards Kuwait City continued as we started our descent, and at 00h32, eight minutes before schedule, we landed via the airport’s 15R runway.

This was followed by a long taxi to Kuwait Airways’ very own Terminal 4. I had a brief talk with the Captain in the cockpit — the flight crews are all Kuwaiti, by the way — and waved goodbye to the flight attendants.

The terminal has plenty of two-level boarding bridges…

…which are, I think, the longest I’d ever seen!

Connecting was quite easy, with, I think, ten minutes of walking overall. The benefit of being a smaller carrier than your Gulf neighbors’ flag carriers is that the terminal does not need to be so large, either. Kuwait Airways has 5.1 million seats on plan for this year according to Cirium’s Diio Mi application, while Etihad has 12.9 million, Qatar Airways has 41.7 million and Emirates has 55.3 million.

In the safety screening they asked us to turn on all our digital devices (just turn the screen on, not to unlock them), something I don’t recall seeing before.

All employees in the airport were remarkably professional though, and since my next flight was the only one that night, the screening went like a breeze.

The terminal is relatively small so finding ourselves wasn’t at all difficult. We would see the lounge on the return flight, since the connection to Manila was quite short anyways.

Now this flight to Manila is quite strange, since it doesn’t connect with many other flights. In the five hours prior to departure, only four Kuwait Airways flights arrived: mine, an A320 from Dubai, a 777-300ER from Jeddah and another Triple Seven from Dhaka.

As far as I’ve seen, that’s because Kuwait has a huge Filipino community, so the flight doesn’t necessarily need connections to be profitable as long as it caters to the diaspora in Kuwait.

The flight looked way fuller than the first one, indeed, despite the lack of connections.

KU417 KWI-MNL

When we got to the gate the Economy class passengers were already boarding.

This time, boarding was being made with the two boarding bridges.

The trip to Manila would be operated by 9K-AOM, the last 777-300ER received by Kuwait Airways.

Named «Dasman» after a district in Kuwait City, Oscar Mike was delivered brand new on August 2017, according to Planespotters.net.

For this flight, the same seat as before, in Business class’ last row. However, after dinner in the row in front (where Thiago was) I’d return to my seat and put the seat to the test by trying to get a night of sleep. The ammenities were the same as the previous flight, although there was no water nor headphones in the storage space by the headrest.

This time, the Economy cabin was practically full, whereas Business had, I’d say, half of its seats occupied.

At 02h04 — 16 minutes before schedule — pushback was started. Taxi to the active runway followed, and we passed by terminal 5, which houses the other home carrier, Jazeera Airways…

…and terminal 1, which houses most of the other airlines, such as Emirates — which, at the moment, operates three daily runs between Dubai and Kuwait City.

Shortly after take-off, the menus and necessaires were handed, and this was the menu. The first service would be a breakfast.

I picked the Ejjeh option, and this was the presentation. Now I know it’s hard for any airline to nail a breakfast, but this looked more like microwave food.

I was curious about the cheese platter too, so they brought it. An appaling presentation again, but a good, heavy start for a cool night of sleep.

I went back to my seat to prepare the bed. Kuwait Airways offers no turndown service, so I grabbed the blanket from another seat and made my own «bed».

I slept for easily some five or six hours, so much so that, when I woke up, it was already time for lunch.

Once again, the presentation was not good, but on the other hand the portion was large, which is something I really appreciate.

And it tasted good: in the end of the service I was full and had enjoyed the meal, so kudos to Kuwait Airways.

Soon, we were starting our descent. Here, we are passing Cabra Island.

The approach towards Manila took quite long as we were sequenced into the high-traffic airport that serves the city. The cabin was lighted up as windows were open and it was a beautiful sunny day.

The final stages of descent consisted of two U-turns before we finally bowed into the final approach for 09 runway of the congested airport.

With that, despite leaving before schedule, we arrived with even more time to spare versus the scheduled time, at 15h49 — a 54-minute difference.

We marveled with all the exotic traffic at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (for us at least) during the long taxi to our gate in terminal 1. Planespotting would be great for the couple of hours of light we had left.

We waved goodbye to the crew and made our way to the terminal, where the ground agents were waiting for us, since we’d return on the same day to London.

Final remarks

Kuwait Airways’ is often times remembered as an airline people don’t really know much about, so it’s good we had the chance to cover it. All in all, I really liked their Business class product.

The hard product lacks a bit due to the fact that they already sell a much superior First class, but the lie-flat seat is comfortable and, as I noticed on the Kuwait City-Manila flight, is quite good for sleeping.

Then on the catering side I really appreciated their large portions over a fancy presentation, although the breakfast wasn’t too impressive. The main courses, though, were always good. And as for the drinks, they are a «dry» airline, so they had what you’d expect as far as soft drinks go.

The crew was definitely the star of the show, always showing professionalism and a joy for being there. Really a treasure for the company.

Last but not least, they could improve too on the entertainment side. While their on-demand system was very functional, video options could have been better, and they are really lagging behind on wi-fi availability.

If Kuwait Airways trim these edges just a bit, they’ll really have a world-class product; not a world-leading one, but one that will definitely be on par with almost all their competitors. They’re really not far from that, actually. It’s just small details that are missing.

For now, they look like an airline that really works hard to bring to its passengers a pleasant experience, and, for me, that’s what counts the most. Fair play to Kuwait Airways and I hope to fly them again soon.

João Machado
João Machado
Brasileño de Porto Alegre. Desde 2020 estudio Economics & Management en la Universidad de Siena, Italia, donde vivo. Apasionado de siempre por la aviación comercial. Beatle favorito: George. Twitter: @joaointhesky

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