For two decades, Kuwait Airways has bled millions of dollars as it struggled to compete with the oldest fleet in the region and political tampering. Even its own citizens gave up on the airline. But new CEO Rasha Al Roumi is already making headway in her plan to turn around one of the world’s worst-performing airlines
Flight FZ057 from Dubai lands at Kuwait International Airport and the majority of the passengers on board flow through immigration. But 20 or so — those without residency, given that Kuwait is hardly a tourist destination — are left to linger. They need visit visas but there is no one to process them and the Gulf state is yet to set up an online or pre-service facility.
A pleasant airport assistant takes each foreign passenger through the cumbersome process of buying stamps, peeling them back and plastering them onto a piece of paper that then must be filled out with the usual details.
Those unprepared with a passport copy are directed to another assistant in charge of the photocopy machine.
But it’s another half-hour before an immigration official who can approve entry to the country becomes available to process the detailed applications. At KD3 ($10.60) per visa, the process seems hardly worth the Kuwaitis’ time.
Even the lovely assistant acknowledges the inefficiency, but what she can do?
It’s a typical welcome to Kuwait and an unexaggerated reflection of the country’s entire aviation industry: old, inefficient and unappealing.
In a startling rejection, the country’s publicly-owned flag carrier, Kuwait Airways, has just 14 percent of the local market, with passengers preferring international competitors. It would be difficult to find another government airline that suffers from such a dismal level of backing from its own people.
Kuwait Airways has not received a new plane — leased or bought — since 1998 and the average age of its existing fleet is nearly 20 years.
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