The carrier traces its history back to 1953,[nb 1] when Kuwait National Airways was formed by a group of Kuwaiti businessmen; initially, the government took a 50% interest.:211 That year, a five-year management contract was signed with British International Airlines (BIA), a BOAC subsidiary in Kuwait that operated charter flights and provided maintenance services. Two Dakotas were bought,:211 and operations started on 16 March 1954 (1954-03-16). The carrier transported 8,966 passengers in its first year of operations. In July 1955 (1955-07), the name Kuwait Airways was adopted.[nb 2] In May 1958 (1958-05), a new contract for management and operation was signed, directly with BOAC this time. BIA was taken over by Kuwait Airways in April 1959 (1959-04).[nb 3]
On 8 August 1962,:210 Kuwait Airways became the first foreign customer in ordering the Trident when two aircraft of the type were acquired, and an option for a third was taken. The deal was valued at £5.5 million, and also included a Comet 4C. At the same time, the carrier had also a £3 million order in place for three BAC One-Elevens, with an option for a fourth.:221 The airline took delivery of the first Comet of its own in January 1963 (1963-01), but Comet operations had started in July the previous year with an aircraft on lease from MEA.:225 In August 1963 (1963-08), a second Comet was ordered. The delivery of this second airframe established an unofficial record in early 1964, when it flew between London and Kuwait, a distance of 2,888 miles (4,648 km), at 461 miles per hour (742 km/h) on average. On 1 June 1963, the government increased its participation in the airline to 100%. In March 1964 (1964-03), the carrier added its first European destination to the route network when flights to London were inaugurated using Comet equipment; from that time, services between London and some points in the Middle East, including Abadan, Bahrain, Beirut, Dhahran, Doha and Kuwait, started being operated in a pool agreement between the carrier and BOAC and MEA. A month later, the airline absorbed Trans Arabia Airways.:855
At April 1965 (1965-04), the route network had expanded to include Abadan, Baghdad, Bahrain, Beirut, Bombay, Cairo, Damascus, Doha, Frankfurt, Geneva, Jerusalem, Karachi, London, Paris and Teheran. At this time, the fleet was ten strong, comprising two Comet 4Cs, three DC-6Bs, two Twin Pioneers and three Viscount 700s; the carrier had two Trident 1Es and three One-Elevens pending delivery. The first Trident was handed over by the aircraft manufacturer in March 1966 (1966-03), and the second followed in May the same year. In the interim, a third aircraft of the type was ordered. On the other hand, the One-Elevens were never delivered: in January 1966 (1966-01) the carrier stated that the simultaneous introduction of both types of aircraft was not possible due to a tightened budget, and postponed their delivery; it was informed late that year that the airline would not take them.[nb 4] Three Boeing 707-320Cs were ordered in November 1967 (1967-11). The carrier made its first profit ever in 1968, with a net income of £910,000.
During 1972, Kuwait Airways' fifth consecutive profitable year, the airline had a net profit of £2.9 million. By May 1973 (1973-05), the fleet had reduced to five Boeing 707-320C aircraft. At March 1975 (1975-03), Faisal Saud Al-Fulaij, who employed 1,800, was the chairman of the corporation. In a deal worth US$14 million, two additional ex-Pan American Boeing 707-320Cs were subsequently purchased that year, with the first one entering the fleet in May. The carrier ordered its first Boeing 737 that year, slated for delivery in February 1976 (1976-02). Kuwait Airways became Boeing 727's 96th worldwide customer in 1979, when it ordered three of these aircraft for delivery in late 1980 and early 1981.
By July 1980 (1980-07), chairmanship was held by Ghassan Al-Nissef, the number of employees had grown to 5,406 and the fleet comprised eight Boeing 707-320Cs, one Boeing 737-200, three Boeing 747-200Bs and one JetStar; three Boeing 727-200s were pending delivery. In mid-1980, six Airbus A310-200s were ordered to replace the Boeing 707s on routes to Asia, Europe and the Middle East, with deliveries starting in 1983; five more A310 aircraft were added to the order late that year.
After India's air market was deregulated in 1992, Kuwait Airways and Gulf Air participated in the formation of Jet Airways, each holding a 20% equity stake, with a total investment estimated in US$8 million. Following the enactment of a law that banned the investment of foreign carriers in domestic Indian operators, both airlines had to divest their shareholding in the Indian company. Kuwait Airways' 20% stake in Jet Airways was sold to chairman Naresh Goyal for US$4 million.
In October 2007, the new CEO pledged that the airline should be privatised in order for it to compete efficiently against other airlines. He says that the airline will encounter difficulty in advancing, especially in fleet renewal, without the privatisation.
Flights to Iraq were resumed in November 2013 (2013-11); Kuwait Airways had discontinued services to the country in 1990 following the invasion of Kuwait.
Privatisation started being considered in the mid-1990s, in a period that followed the Gulf War when the carrier experienced a heavy loss on its assets. The company was turned into a corporation in 2004. A draft decree for its privatisation was approved by the government on 21 July 2008. Plans were to sell up to 35% of the stake to a long-term investor and another 40% allotted to the public, whereas the government would hold the remaining 25%. These plans also contemplated the exclusion of domestic carrier competitors, such as Jazeera Airways, as potential bidders. Furthermore, the government also committed to keep the workforce invariant for at least five years and those who were not to be retained would be offered the opportunity to be transferred to other government dependencies without altering their salaries and holding similar working conditions.
In 2011, the privatisation committee valued the carrier at US$805 million, following advice by the Citigroup, Ernst & Young and Seabury. The process was expected to be concluded by March 2011 (2011-03). However, in October that year the committee recommended the airline to go through a reorganisation process before continuing with the privatisation programme, something that was approved by Kuwait's Council of Ministers. The privatisation draft was amended and the government signed a contract with the International Air Transport Association for the provision of consultation expertise. The law for the privatisation of Kuwait Airways Corporation was passed in January 2013 (2013-01).
As of March 2014[update], Rasha Abdulaziz Al-Roumi is the chairwoman. She was appointed in December 2013 (2013-12). The former chairman, Sami al-Nisf, had been suspended following the disclosure of plans for the acquisition of five used aircraft from Jet Airways.
The Kuwait Airways headquarters is located on the grounds of Kuwait International Airport in Al Farwaniyah Governorate, Kuwait. The 42,000 square metres (450,000 sq ft) head office was built for 15.8 million Kuwaiti dinars (US $ 53.6 million). Ahmadiah Contracting & Trading Co. served as the main contractor. The headquarters, built in 48 months, was constructed from 1992 to 1996. The construction of the head office was the first time that structural glazing for curtain walls was used in the State of Kuwait. The previous headquarters was on the grounds of the airport.
Subsidiaries and alliances
Kuwait Airways has several subsidiaries that are considered large companies in Kuwait's Market. These companies are going through a similar privatization process as KAC.
In July 1996 (1996-07), the carrier modified a previous order that included Boeing 747 aircraft, and placed an order worth US$280 million for two Boeing 777-200s, with purchase rights for another aircraft of the type. The operation made Kuwait Airways the 22nd customer of the type worldwide. The airframer handed over the first Boeing 777-200 in early 1998.
In December 2013 (2013-12), it was informed the carrier signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for the acquisition of 15 A320neos and ten A350-900s. These aircraft would be handed over between 2019 and 2022. For the interim period, the deal includes the lease of seven A320s and five A330-200s from the aircraft manufacturer; deliveries would start in late 2014. In a deal valued at US$4.4 billion, the order including ten A350-900s and 15 A320neos was confirmed in February 2014 (2014-02).
As of October 2013[update], Kuwait Airways had one of the oldest aircraft parks in the Middle East, with an average age of 20 years. That month, the carrier opened its maintenance facilities to the press for them to check that the fleet is kept in conditions, amid rumours of deficiencies in their maintenance.
As of February 2014[update], the fleet includes the following aircraft:
Kuwait Airways also operate aircraft for official State business. The fleet has a Kuwait Airways inspired livery with State of Kuwait titles, and is composed of one A300-600, one A310-300, one A319, one A320, two A340-500 and one 747-8BBJ.
In the 1990s when Kuwait Airways has ordered Boeing 747-400's, their second 747 aircraft was nearly complete when the airline decided to cancel the order. The order was then taken by Philippine Airlines and the aircraft was delivered in 1996. This specific 747, now registered as RP-C7475, is still in service with Philippine Airlines and is the only aircraft in the Philippines-based flag carrier with several Arabic signage in the cabin.
Incidents and Accidents
During 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait,10 planes belonging to Kuwait Airways were allegedly stolen and taken to the grounds of Baghdad International Airport and from there they were stored at Mosul International Airport in Iraq. Fearing an air strike in Iraq, Saddam Hussein sent these planes to Iran. Out of 10 planes,4 were completely destroyed and 6 were returned to Kuwait Airways by the Iranians in 1992.
On April 5, 1988, Kuwait Airways Flight 422 was hijacked from Bangkok to Kuwait with 111 passengers and crew aboard. Three members of the Kuwaiti Royal Family. Six or seven Lebanon men, including Hassan Izz-Al-Din, a veteran of the TWA 847 hijacking armed with guns and hand grenades forced the pilot to land in Mashhad, Iran and demanded the release of 17 Shiite Muslims guerrillas held in Kuwait. Lasting 16 days and traveling 3,200-miles from Mashhad in northeastern Iran to Larnaca, Cyprus, and finally to Algiers, it is the longest skyjacking to date. Two passengers, Abdullah Khalidi, 25, and Khalid Ayoub Bandar, 20, both Kuwaitis, were shot to death by the hijackers and dumped on the tarmac in Cyprus.Kuwait did not release the 17 prisoners, and the hijackers were allowed to leave Algiers.
On December 3, 1984, a Kuwait Airways flight from Kuwait City to Karachi Pakistan was hijacked by four Lebanese Shi'a hijackers and diverted to Tehran. The hijackers demand was the release of the Kuwait 17, which was not met. During the course of the standoff women, children and Muslims were released and two American officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Charles Hegna and William Stanford, were shot dead and dumped on the tarmac. The few dozen passengers left on board, particularly Americans were threatened and tortured. "Every five minutes there was a frightening incident. There was no letup at all," British flight engineer Neil Beeston told the BBC.Paradoxically the hijackers released a statement claiming "We do not have any enmity toward anyone and we do not intend to deny the freedom of anyone or to frighten anyone..." On the sixth day of the drama, Iranian security forces stormed the plane and released the remaining hostages. Authorities said they would be brought to trial, but the hijackers were released and allowed to leave the country. Some passengers and officials suggested complicity by Iran in the hijacking and that the hostage rescue had been staged. One Kuwaiti and two Pakistani passengers claimed that the hijackers received additional weapons and equipment once the plane had landed, including handcuffs and nylon ropes used to tie passengers to their seats. One American official wondered if the surrender was not preplanned: "You do not invite cleaners aboard an airplane after you have planted explosives, promised to blow up the plane, and read your last will and testament." The U.S. State Department announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of those involved in the hijacking, but made no military response. Later press reports linked Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyah to the hijackings.
Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait, 30/6/1966, Hawker Siddeley Trident 1E registration 9K-ACG touched down 3 miles short of the runway. There were no fatalities but the aircraft was written off.
During the Iran–Iraq War, Kuwait Airways was the target of several hijackings. One was at London, England to Karachi, Pakistan flight on December 1, 1984. The flight took off from London-Heathrow making a stop-over in Kuwait before continuing the journey to the final destination in Karachi, Pakistan. During the second part of the flight, two Lebanese Shi'a gunmen diverted the plane to Tehran. The hijackers were armed with guns and explosives and there was gunfire on the plane while it was in flight. The hijackers wanted to take the plane to Lebanon and negotiated the re-fuelling in exchange for all the women and children on the flight. The stand-off took six days but finally Iranian security officers dressed as staff overpowered the hijackers.
In addition to these there was a hijacking on the ground in Beirut in 1982, Captained by Les Bradley en route to Kuwait from Tripoli via Beirut, this is referenced in Robin Wrights book 'Sacred Rage'. Also a long hijack involving the Iranian Captain of a 747 occurred at a similar time, lasting more than a week.
In April 1988 a Kuwait Airways Boeing 747 was hijacked and diverted to Algiers while on its way to Kuwait from Bangkok. The hijacking lasted 16 days and ended with a Kuwaiti firefighter being killed along with another Kuwaiti military person. This occurred when the plane stopped in Cyprus for two or three days, where the government of Cyprus was not able to save the two persons killed. Then it moved to Algeria where the hijacker's demands were satisfied and where the 110 remaining passengers were released.
^"Brevities". Flight73 (2577): 820. 13 June 1958. Archived from the original on 10 August 2013. "Under a new five-year agreement, B.O.A.C. will be responsible for management and operation of Kuwait Airways."
^"Air Commerce". Flight International83 (2812): 153. 31 January 1963. Archived from the original on 12 August 2013. "Kuwait Airways' first de Havilland Comet 4C took off from Hatfield [sic] on January 18 for Beirut, which it reached in 4hr 34min, an average speed of 490 m.p.h."
^"Air Commerce". Flight International83 (2810): 73. 17 January 1963. Archived from the original on 12 August 2013. "At Hatfield [sic] on January 9 Sir Aubrey Burke (right), chairman of the de Havilland Aircraft Co, handed over the log book of Kuwait Airways' Comet 4C to the airline's chairman, Mr Nisf Al Yusaf Al Nisf."
^"Air commerce". Flight International84 (2841): 275. 22 August 1963. Archived from the original on 12 August 2013. "On August 12 at the Kuwait Embassy in London Mr Abdussalam Shuaib, chairman of Kuwait Airways, signed a contract with Hawker Siddeley Aviation for a second Comet 4C."
^"Air commerce". Flight International85 (2866): 236. 13 February 1964. Archived from the original on 17 August 2013. "Kuwait Airways' second Hawker Siddeley Comet 4C recently established, subject to official confirmation, a point-to-point record between London and Kuwait. The official time for the 2,888 mile delivery flight was 6hr 25sec—an average of 461 m.p.h."
^"Air commerce". Flight International85 (2871): 446. 19 March 1964. "Kuwait Airways' general manager, Mr Abdel Rahman el Mishri, disembarking from the Comet which inaugurated his company's new London service on March 2."
^"Sensor". Flight International89 (2981): 687. 28 April 1966. Archived from the original on 31 August 2013. "The two One-Elevens ordered by Kuwait Airways, delivery of which was deferred last year, are not now likely to be taken by the airline."
^ ab"Air transport". Flight International103 (3347): 668. 3 May 1973. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. "Kuwait Airways made a profit in 1972 for the fifth consecutive year. The carrier, which operates five Boeing 707-320Cs on services radiating from Kuwait as far as London to the west and Bombay to the east, had a net income of KD2.1 million (£2.9 million). Net income in 1968, the first profitable year for the airline, was £910,000."
^"Airliner market". Flight International108 (3468): 279. 28 August 1975. Archived from the original on 24 January 2014. "The second of two Boeing 707-320Cs sold by Pan American to Kuwait Airways Corporation will be delivered on September 9. The first was delivered in May. Total cost of both aircraft with spares was over $14 million."
^"Airliner market". Flight International107 (3452): 725. 8 May 1975. Archived from the original on 24 January 2014. "Boeing has announced three new orders: Kuwait Airways and Nordair of Montreal have each ordered one 737, Kuwait's first and Nordair's fifth, for delivery in February 1976 and November respectively"
^"Airliner market". Flight International116 (3674): 873. 15 September 1979. Archived from the original on 24 January 2014. "Kuwait Airways has ordered three Boeing Advanced 727s for delivery in late 1980 and early 1981. The airline becomes Boeing's 96th 727 customer. Its aircraft will be laid out with 126 tourist seats and 16 first-class, and will feature dual INS and full flight regime autothrottles."