Kuwait Airways (KAC) is expecting to receive two leased Airbus aircraft this week in what will be the airline’s first fleet expansion in 16 years. The A320s, the first of 12 to be leased, are due to arrive in Kuwait between December 18 and 22, the airline said in a statement carried by state media KUNA. The airline also has purchased 25 Airbus aircraft (10 A350-900 and 15 A320 neo family) and 10 wide-body 777-300ER aircraft from Boeing, all of which are due to be delivered by the end of the decade.
The desperately needed fleet renewal program has been finalised by CEO Rasha Al Roumi, who told Arabian Business in April the average age of the fleet was about 20 years, costing the airline millions in excessive maintenance bills. While exact financial data is difficult to extract from the airline, it is not disputed that it has been bleeding tens of millions of dollars in all but one year since 1991. It was forecast to have lost KD80m ($285m) in 2011-12, on top of $275m in losses in 2010-11 and $180m the year before.
But last year, the airline received $500m in compensation from the Iraqi government for damages incurred during the 1990 invasion, and also had $1.5bn worth of debt accumulated between 2004-2012 taken over by the Kuwaiti government as part of plans to privatise the airline. Al Roumi claims last year’s losses shrunk to $60m. She intends to make the airline profitable within a few years.
She blamed much of the demise of the airline – once a leader in the Gulf – on politics, with little support in the parliament to spend money on the state-owned carrier.
MP Khalil Al Saleh told Arabic daily Al Rai last week, KAC had deteriorated because of “excessive interference” in its affairs by some ministers, lawmakers and beneficiaries. Al Saleh said the airline averaged 300 staff for each flight, compared to the required 100 because of “interferences”. He also highlighted the country’s cumbersome visa on arrival process, which he said would be unnecessary if the airport was made a free zone.