One morning in 1932, long before Kuwait had emerged as one of the world’s major oil exporters, a sandy airstrip outside the walls of Kuwait City received its first aircraft - a British Handley - Page Hermes. That early flight marked the dawn of commercial aviation in the country.
In 1946, the first shipments of oil left Kuwait, and as a result the economy boomed. Eight years later, a national air carrier was established. It was an idea conceived in February 1953 by two astute Kuwaiti businessmen, who realized the need for an airline to serve their nation’s thriving economy.
In March 1954, the Kuwait National Airways Company was formed with a capital of 150,000 Kuwaiti Dinars. Three DC-3 were used to operate services between Beirut, Jerusalem, Damascus and Abadan. By 1955, the new airline was facing economic hardships, which prompted the Kuwaiti Government to extend financial help by acquiring a 50 percent interest, for 200,000 pounds. As a result, the company’s capital was doubled and its name was changed to Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC).
A second airline was formed in 1960 under the name Trans -Arabian Airways and it became a tough competitor for KAC, in what at that time was a very limited travel market. Under these circumstances, KAC’s shareholders sold all their shares to the government in May 1962. The other airline continued to operate until April 1964, at which time the government bought it out and added its four aircraft to the KAC fleet. KAC entered the jet age in 1962, when it leased a Comet 4-C, the world’s first jet-engineered airliner; by 1964, the airline had acquired its own Comet. The KAC route map was quickly expanded and scheduled services to London were commenced, three times a week. But the comets could not cope with increased traffic demands and it became obvious that bigger jets were needed.
Comets and Tridents were gradually phased out of service and three Boeing 707 were delivered, in late 1968. By the beginning of 1978, KAC had an all-Boeing 707 fleet or eight aircrafts.
In August, 1978, KAC entered the wide-body age by taking delivery of its first two B747-200s, adding a third in 1979. This allowed KAC to expand its route network to New York in the west and Manila in the east. Modernization of the fleet continued and four B727-200s, were delivered in 1980-81. By that time the 707’s were no longer economically viable, due to massive increase in fuel prices and they were replaced by a new generation of twin -engine aircraft, quieter and more efficient. Eight Airbus A310 and A300-600 were delivered during 1983-84 and in 1986 three Boeing 767 - 200ER aircraft joined the wide-body fleet. Until August 2, 1990 KAC was operating a fleet of 21 aircraft flying to 42 destinations in 35 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. These aircrafts carried more than 1.5 million passengers a year and in excess of 50,000 tons of freight. KAC’s worldwide services were supported by a fully integrated infrastructure, which included comprehensive engineering, training, reservation and catering facilities.
On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the invading Iraqi army looted and destroyed KAC premises and 15 of its aircraft. Following the Liberation of Kuwait on February 26, 1991, the airline was re-launched as Kuwait Airways and adopted a master plan to expand its operations worldwide.
With regard to the policy of refurbishment and renewal of its fleet, KAC took delivery of 17 brand new aircrafts. KAC’s fleet comprises of: three A320-200, three A310 - 300, five A300-605Rs, four A340-200s and two B777, all equipped with the latest entertainment systems. Kuwait Airways emerged as a leading international Airline reflecting the true essence in Kuwaiti hospitality with state of the art facilities and high quality of service for its passengers coupled with the latest technological advances in its fleet, infrastructure and services.
Kuwait Airways has also achieved several notable accomplishments, international awards like JAR 145 and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). In addition to this, KAC has received several awards for its sophisticated in-flight services, entertainment and hospitality.
One of these achievements was obtaining the IOSA certificate in November 2006, hence adding to Kuwait Airways’ honorable records for Safety and Security. Other clusters of development projects include Cargo Accounting System GASS in October 2006, ‘KIOSK’- (Common Use Self Service) and E-Ticketing. Kuwait Airways has also attained first position in the Informatics Competition in 2008 and was judged as the best website in the domain of E-Government among Kuwait’s government bodies, institutions and departments. This accomplishment has raised the name of Kuwait Airways in the field of Information Technology and effectively enabled the Corporation to execute and implement IT techniques and direct it towards the Corporation’s marketing and operational purposes.
With the establishment of fleet and its organization framework, KAC hopes to re-establish its network to more than 46 countries worldwide and it has consolidated its commitment to providing the best services by offering even more comfort to its customers, whilst continuing to rank safety as one of its highest priorities.
For more information, visit www.kuwaitairways.com
First published in Men's Passion issue #31 May 2011