I almost didn’t write this trip report based on the age old adage my mother taught me…”if you don’t have anything nice to say…” But actually I do have something very nice to say about them: the round trip first class ticket was US$ 2333, which is what prompted me to take them this particular time. Compare that with the $ 8,000 or $10,000 that the major carriers charge you! But, alas, you get what you pay for.
The service between JFK and LHR is offered three times a week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Needless to say, this is a major drawback for a business traveler. But I could live with the schedule, as this was vacation, and I did not need to change.
Check in was actually a plus with respect to speed. There was no line, and the uninterested attendant checked me in immediately. No hello, just barked out, “this line is for first and business class only.” The check in staff is clearly subcontracted.
The lounge made available is the Northwest World Club. Gotta be the worst WC in the system. Seating for hardly 25 people. Only 5 operational phones, and no restrooms. And no bar fruit in the self service bar (sorry, pet peeve).
Boarding was announced, and I headed for the gate. No hello, welcome on board. Just grabbed by boarding pass, and pointed to seat 1A. They use door IL, which means all C and Y class pax come parading past you during boarding. The F seat does not recline all the way. Indeed, it was equal to what most carriers have in their business class (except BA and VS, whose J class seats are far superior). The first class seating on the Boeing 777 is 2-2-2 with 61” of seat pitch. A standard issue pillow and blanket were dispensed (the same as is made available in Y and J class). The headsets were of the noise canceling variety, and were nice. I never partake in the IFE, so I cannot comment on its quality, except that there were Hindi, Arabic and Western movie selections. Oh yes, and a rendition of the Holy Qu’ran was one of the audio choices as well. Juice and a newspaper were offered. (Kuwait Airways is a dry carrier, and no alcohol is served. But I knew that going in, and I didn’t mind). The cabin soon filled up. When the door was closed, and immediately after the prayer, I took the oppty to move to row 3, where I would not have a seat mate. Dates and Arabic coffee were handed out before take off. I asked for pain reliever, but it never came.
After our 30 minute late take off at 10:45 PM, all the lights were switched on, and the menus were distributed. I thought that was unnecessary, since many people just wanted to sleep—why do you have to turn all the lights on? In fact, they actually woke all the sleeping passengers to hand them the menu. Also, you can’t choose when you want to eat. The food is brought around on trolleys. The appetizers (they actually had caviar), salad and soup and brought on one cart. The entrees on another. And finally, the cheeses, dessert, fruit and coffee are brought last. I can’t recall the entrée selections (sorry Carfield!), but they were all OK. The choices were 50% western, and 50% Arabian. The dessert, pastries and ice cream were excellent. The crew is totally lacking in any refinement. They respond with statements like “what do you want?” “No, we don’t have any pens.” Requests for a refill of soda/ juice/ water are met with rolled eyes. It was not just me, I observed this type of behavior with all the other first passengers.
I took a restroom break. Sweet Jesus. I’ve seen cleaner rest rooms at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC. And this was the first class restroom! After dinner, they did turn off the lights, and I took the oppty to try and get 2-3 hours of sleep. Until I was awakened for breakfast. They should have asked if we wanted to be woken. What is wrong with these people?
Prior to landing, Fast Track cards were handed out, and a gift of some bird statue (I left that on the plane). We landed on time. No thank you, good bye from the crew. However, they were kind enough to hold back the J and Y passengers. Speaking of J class, I did take a peek, and that cabin appeared to be nothing more than a premium economy.
My last trip to LHR was on BA First, and I agree that is a tough act to follow. But I don’t care how much cheaper Kuwait is. That was certainly my last trip. Yep, you do get what you pay for!
Programs: AA 3MM EXP, UA 1P UGS, SQ Solitaire, LH SEN, CX DM, GP Courtesy Card, SPG Plat
Interesting report. I didn't know Kuwait airways served that route. Not that I would ever take them anywhere even if it was free.. But interesting that there are still many airlines out there that serve caviar in First. It's pretty obvious though, that their First product is really a Business product from the price and also from the seating configuration.
By the way, can you tell me what the sort of passengers were flying F? Were they mostly Middle Eastern or were there a lot of westerners as well?
The pax were 66% Arabian and 33% Western. I was the only Indian in F. I guess there are never any Indians in F, because twice the crew asked me what class I was flying in when they saw me waiting to use the F restroom. Obnoxious, if you ask me. Did they ask that question to ALL the pax, or just the Indians?
Tfung, AI is the other airline that has 5th freedom on the JFK-LHR route. Both usually sell their premium cabins at a lower rate than the quadropoly (AA, BA, UA, VS). I've seen LHR-JFK in BC r/t for under GBP 700.
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by terenz: Tfung, AI is the other airline that has 5th freedom on the JFK-LHR route. </font>
I would reccomend AI's premium cabins any day of the week. The warmth of the inflight service puts the "quadropoly" to shame. The only drawback is just one daily flight and the lack of bells and whistles on the seats (the PTVs in F and J class are installed and active, but no programming will be screened until the Indian Civil Aviation minister says so). However, I've never had a problem sleeping like a baby on the seats (150-degree recline) and have thoroughly enjoyed all of my nearly 100 transatlantic crossings with Air India.
Why on earth does something like whats shown on the PTVs and when have to be directed by the aviation minister ? Isn't he busy enough already making a mess of the privatization ?!
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by B747-437B: (the PTVs in F and J class are installed and active, but no programming will be screened until the Indian Civil Aviation minister says so). </font>
Funny you should ask. AI checkin is right next to KU. On my date of departure, AI's scheduled 8:10 PM departure left at 11:59 PM.
But in fairness to AI, their overall on time performance has vastly improved over the last few years (or so my father tells me, who takes them all the time).
The only reason I did not take AI over KU is that KU's scheduled departure is later, and I wanted a later arrival time in LHR in hopes that I would not have to wait around for my hotel room to become ready for me (no such luck, I waited for 2 hours anyway). The F fare on KU and AI was within $100 of each other.
In 2000, AI had a 91.4% systemwide ontime percentage and a 93% ontime percentage on their transatlantic routes. Better than pretty much any other operator out there!
You can claim TW Aviator miles (till November) on AI flights, or you can claim AI's own Flying Return points. You may NOT claim AF Frequence Plus miles, BUT you can use Flying Return points for travel on Air France flights.
Ground service on AI at JFK is exceptional for F and J class pax since AI has its own Maharaja Lounge on the third floor of Terminal 4. You check in, head up to the lounge and you will be personally escorted to the gate by one of the ground staff when boarding commences.
Ground service at LHR is equally painless, and the Maharaja Lounge at Heathrow (by Gate 1) is truly magnificent and they have the most divine buffet of Indian snacks - I always pig out there like there is no tomorrow!