16 November 2013

A long journey we just did, Kuala Lumpur to New York City with Kuwait Airways. Inevitably we had to change planes in Kuwait, followed by a brief stopover in London, culminating in a 28-hour flight. Actually the plane departed KUL at 3am on Saturday and landed at JFK at 6pm same day, so that’s a bit of time-travelling, right? Ah well, Kuwait Airways gave us a great deal, and furthermore we had not tried the carrier … so why not? ­čÖé

The journey at KUL starts at 3.00am. Nothing strange, middle-eastern airlines like to leave Malaysia in the wee hours of the morning. I guess to arrive at their home bases in time for breakfast. This is an Airbus A340-300, procured by the airline way back in 1995, thus making our youngest child Aina, a fellow traveller, younger by two years!

The interior is not in tip-top condition, some seats a bit shabby and loose, not helped by the cranky ancient inflight entertainment system. I wonder why a rich state like Kuwait is missing out on the latest jetliners, unlike their other Gulf brethren … I suppose being a govt-owned enterprise has a lot to do with it, but that’s another story. I pity the cabin crew though, who seem to be trying their level best to make us comfortable.

In any case, the stuff they feed us are pretty good.

And for this leg of the journey (Kuala Lumpur to Kuwait), we have a second helping in the form of breakfast just before arrival.

Kuwait Airport looks like a shopping mall, but it’s not too large to make one disoriented. It’s not too busy, and there seem to be a lot of Filipino and Indonesian ladies around. ­čÖé

It has three wings, but the lay-out is pretty much straightforward. I was last here in 2006 on a business trip, so the airport was just a blur.

It’s funny how the elongated concourse’s ceiling is designed like the cabin of a huge plane. Sort of pre-flight orientation.

In any case, there’s a display of what they plan to have, but I can’t see any construction activity outside the present terminal building. Another Kuwaiti wishful thinking? Are they sleeping through the aviation boom raging across the Gulf now?

For us travellers on a lengthy lay-over, free wi-fi is a necessity, and we find it at Gate 1, at the far end of one of the wings. Luckily it’s early morning and this god-forsaken gate is forgotten, so we have the space to ourselves.

Impressive huge billboards adorn the wall at this end, extolling the virtues of Kuwait … but Kuwait has been so low profile, that most of us would have no clue what this little country is all about. We only know it was invaded by Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, who stole all their planes.

Morning sun in full shine, and a bit of plane-spotting — another ancient Kuwaiti plane, an Airbus A300-600 from 1994. Their fleet is full of old planes, some from the early 90s (bought new after the first Gulf War, when Saddam decimated their fleet). Only last month I heard their government was thinking of upgrading their fleet with brand new planes, but then it is now mired in controversy. Politicians should not be running airlines!

And yes, our ride to New York City via London is ready … well, a relatively new Boeing 777-200 from 1998. Now at least Aina is older by a year.

Taxiing to the runway for take-off takes a while, since the distance is quite far. The terminal and runways are designed in such a way that this distance is not minimised. A pity.

The interior is similar to the A340 we took from Kuala Lumpur earlier, but I must admit, the leg room in both planes is quite generous.

As soon as we are airborne, they start feeding us again.

Almost 6 hours after leaving Kuwait, we start our approach for London Heathrow.

Flying over London, that’s the City Airport along the Thames river.

Soon we are right above the Canary Wharf area.

Safely on the ground at London Heathrow, and a lot of red planes.

Terminal 4 is our station. Malaysia Airlines also uses this terminal.

We are travelling on to New York, but are requested to disembark, taking all cabin baggage with us — a real hassle. We duly leave the plane, and follow the transit sign to re-enter the departure area, and yes, through another round of stringent security check. I fail the normal scan, and need to go into a cubicle where the use the body scanner. No problem, quick and painless, but I wonder what they see on my body …

This is one very busy airport, I must say.

Back to the gate where our plane is docked, and as usual, a bit of plane-watching — and a brand new one, Qatar’s Boeing 787, the Dreamliner.

The old faithful from Kuwait that would take us across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City, patiently waits.

Boarding time again, with some new passengers joining us here in London.

Airborne and the sun sets as we are crossing the Atlantic. Pardon this antiquated Airshow display!

Aina ponders … this is her first visit to America. Quite a milestone, and country no. 21 for her too — not bad for a 16-year-old girl.

Another round of meal before we land on American soil.

The plane land on schedule at JFK, the immigration crowd is thin, and we are lucky the officer is friendly, and after the usual fingerprinting and banter, we get our entry visae … soon we are at the back of the famous NY yellow cab on the way to our hotel, just half an hour from the airport. Excellent start, despite the cab hitting a car in the traffic jam along Van Wyck Expressway, causing a half-hour delay in our hotel journey!




  1. I was thinking about Kuwait Airways too to visit my family in law in October, but did some quick research before I trigger the button. Glad that we will not fly via Kuwait Airways. Anyway, they do have a good deal.

  2. Hi, we are planning a trip to NY with Kuwait Airlines in Nov 2014.

    Was wondering if you could give an honest and true opinion of the flight from LHR to NY, as the ones i have read so far seem to vary wildly!

    Many Thanks

    Kind Regards


  3. Hi Jim, very sorry for late reply.
    The Kuwait Airways flights were, to us, value for money. It was cheapest for us to fly KUL-JFK via KWI. The planes were aged yes, but comfortable, food and inflight entertainment pretty decent and the flight attendants did their best to look after us. Punctual, layovers at KWI were bearable, we found free wi-fi near Gate 1 at KWI. Would fly again with them.

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