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Kuwait Airways: India (Ahmedabad) - Istanbul

Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:21 pm

This trip back from India was part of my return to Europe after a long trip around Asia. From Kuala Lumpur I flew to Cochin on Air Asia for the incredible price of 19$ and then I was looking for the cheapest option to Istanbul from India. In the end it came down to two choices: Pegasus from Delhi or Kuwait Airways from Ahmedabad. I chose the latter because of the much shorter connection time and the free 30kg luggage allowance and food. I should note that I bought the ticket just a few weeks in advance - it would have been better to buy it earlier because it would have been even cheaper.

The price I paid was 280$ for a one-way from Ahmedabad to Istanbul. There were prices as low as 200$ from some cities (but these had sold out when I bought my ticket). When I looked at the reviews of Kuwait Airways I was shocked to discover that they had a really terrible reputation - old planes, bad service, etc. What the hell, I thought, how bad can it be? - the flight legs were only 4 hours each with a stop of 6 hours in Kuwait.

In the event I found Kuwait Airways to be much better than expected. Both aircraft were A320s with winglets. One of them was 26 years old according to flight radar but you would never have guessed because inside it was spotlessly clean and it had comfortable new seats with PTVs, USB power outlets and even wifi (not for free, though). The food was pretty good - there was a choice of meals and on the second flight they gave out little menus showing the choices (fish or shish tavuk), which I thought was a nice touch.

The connection in Kuwait was easy enough. They gave me both boarding passes in Ahmedabad so I didn't have to do anything there except wait. However, the airport itself is kind of old fashioned and disorganised. There was a "transit desk" hidden away to one side next to the food court, which was crowded with Indians mostly connecting to London and New York. If you showed your boarding pass you got either a food voucher or an airport hotel voucher (for connections of over 8 hours). Unfortunately my connection was 6 hours so I couldn't benefit from that. The food vouchers only get you a little juice plus a cheese sandwhich, but it's a nice gesture.

After that I walked around looking for a quiet corner to sleep in. The whole airport has very bright lights and is quite noisy and crowded. For some reason there was a severe lack of toilets - half of them were closed and those that are open had long queues all the time. I found a place to lie down and sleep near gate 10. They have 4 person seats without armrests and so I lay down there. Surprisingly for me, I started to feel very cold by about 7am due to cold air coming in from outside. I had always thought Kuwait was scorching hot. There were constant announcements and the noise of aircraft engines/APUs and people shouting. So if you have to sleep here I'd recommend ear plugs, an eye cover, something to use as a pillow and a blanket as well as a warm jumper/jacket.

There were a couple of pay-to-use lounges. One was called the Mastercard lounge and it costs 7 Kuwaiti dinar including a buffet meal. That sounded fantastic value until I fout out how much a dinar is worth. 7 dinar = 21 Euros. Still, it could be worthwhile if you are hungry. The seats in there didn't look good for sleeping, though. When it was time for boarding I went though security, only to find that the area of gate 10-28 didn't include gate 20, which was on the other side of the airport. So I went there and had to go through security again. The same gate had several flights and the gate agents were shouting "Cairo, Cairo" and getting passengers for Cairo to jump ahead in the queue. It seems that in Kuwait passengers turn up at the gate 5m before the flight and not a moment before. So I sat down again and waited in this narrow seating area until they really started boarding. We got bussed about 20m to the steps of the plane.

On the second flight I took advantage of the PTV system. They had front and downward cameras, moving maps, games and a selection of movies. The movie I watched was pretty good - "The Accountant" and my gilfriend watched "Johnny English". They made everyone close the blinds and that was good because the sun was fierce. A direct route from Kuwait - Istanbul would have taken us over Al Qaim, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa (all held by ISIS) so obviously not a good idea. To avoid this, we flew east from Kuwait into Iran and then up to the Turkish border near Diyarbakir. Strangely, on the flight from Ahmedabad to Kuwait instead of flying through Iran we went further south through UAE and then up the gulf past Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. I looked down at one point and saw Dubai then a lot of oil rigs and boats lit up at night.

All in all I would say that I was happy with Kuwait Airways. The flights were comfortable, the food was tasty, the service was good and the planes are in good condition. If you have a stop of more than 8 hours you can get a free room at the transit hotel. The negatives were the general disorganisation, bad signage and lack of sufficient toilets at Kuwait Airport, as well as the lack of any comfortable seats or dark area to lie down. If I did it again I'd probably take a stopover and go to visit the city. That would make it far less tiring. My flights were nothing like the bad reviews I've read, so I think that the airline is improving and I hope they will continue on this path.

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