Thursday, 6 March 2014

5th Freedom Joyride Flight With Kuwait Airways

Introduction



When I heard about my friend flying on this airline from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Jakarta (CGK), I knew that I had to do this one day. After deciding to do a joyride trip to Indonesia, this airline came into mind and I decided to go ahead and book it. Decision was easy and within minutes I had my booking done. This was the first booking I made for this trip. I had seen Kuwait Airways in Singapore about 10-15 years ago with this aircraft type and I didn't expect that I would flying on it in the year 2014 and so that it was I just couldn't wait to experience this airline's hospitality. Kuwait Airways has a been around for a long time, way before the likes of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways but then this airline is now struggling behind the giants along with Gulf Air. However, the great news for this airline recently is the fleet renewal that it had just announced not too long ago. An order of 25 aircraft consisting of 10 A350-900s and 15 A320NEOs to replace its current fleet had been confirmed. Bright times ahead for the airline, this fleet renewal is very much needed and hopefully the in-flight product would match its ambition. Flying under the radar of Emirates, Qatar and Etihad may not be a bad thing for this airline.

The ticket cost only S$80 for the one-way ticket. A bargain it is, so if any of you would like to have a joyride on this airline, please do so! This is what you call 5th freedom route. For those who doesn't know, it means airlines operating from outside their home base to another destination and normally agreement with the government would allowed such flights to take place. In the past, we used to have lots of these kind of flights which benefit aviation enthusiasts, unfortunately after the alliance (OneWorld, Star Alliance and Sky Team) were created, such routes were cut and airlines rely on their partners in the same alliance to fly their passengers there. 

On the day itself, I took a red-eye flight with SilkAir to Kuala Lumpur. SilkAir was offering a one way ticket price of S$105 and the only available morning flight was 0600, I decided to take up this offer. It was originally scheduled to be operated by an A319, a type that I have only flown twice so far. United (San Francisco to Vancouver) and Easyjet (Gatwick to Edinhoven). Do look out for my trip report on this one. Anyway, once I reached there, it was around 0700. I had plenty of time to spare so I made my way to the viewing mall to do some spotting. 

Spotting time! The weather is perfect for spotting, can you count how many aircraft are there in this photo?


The spacious viewing mall in my opinion is much better than Changi Airport Terminal 1's. 



Once it was time for check-in, I made my way to the row L, checking to make sure my flight was on scheduled departure. 




Just a couple of counter opened for check-in. Later on I checked with the staff, he told me that only 4 passengers were boarding this sector to Jakarta. The rest of the passengers were on board the aircraft flew in from Kuwait. 



Very nice boarding pass, unfortunately the staff tore off the bigger portion, leaving me with the smaller. I wish I could keep the whole thing. 



My original seat that I checked in was row 6A, apparently that row and row behind are business class seats and the staff explained to me that due to a computer error, I was being re-seated to row 10A, a bulkhead seat and the seat beside mine was blocked. No complains at all. 

Found this model at the air side, looking so forward to fly this beauty. 



For this aircraft type - Airbus A340-300; I have flown with Sri Lankan, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, LAN Airlines and Finnair. So this would make it my 6th carrier! 



Its rare to be in an empty waiting room


Once I reached the gate, the security wasn't opened yet so I walked around for about 15 minutes before it was opened. Apparently only 4 of us departing to Jakarta from here while the rest of the passengers were on board, they were not allowed to disembark. 

Kuwait Airways has 4 Airbus A340-300; 9K-ANA to 9K-AND. I wondered at that point which one I would be flying on. Using my flightradar24 application and did a quick check, I was to fly on 9K-ANB, a veteran in the air! 

My ride to Jakarta: 9K-ANB, a 1995-built machine.






Carrier: Kuwait Airways
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Registration: 9K-ANB
MSN: 90
Delivery date: 7th April 1995
Configuration: F18C24Y230
Engines: 4 X CFM56-5C4
Routing: KUL-CGK
Flight number: KU415
Gate: C1 
Date: 14th Feb 2014
Seat: 10A 
FL: 370
Duration: 1 hr 45 mins
Load: 50% (Y class)
Schedule departure: 1315
Actual departure 1335
Arrival: 1425 (Jakarta time) 
Departure runway: 32R
Arrival runway: 25R 

Boarding started late due to the late arrival of the aircraft. Doesn't affect me at all since I have no more flights for the day. The following day I would to fly to PKN with Trigana and on the return with KalStar. However this pair of flights didn't take place and its postponed to 15th March instead. 

While waiting for boarding to take place, I had a good chat with a gate agent who asked me why I chose this airline to fly to Jakarta. He was pleasantly surprised and hasn't met anyone who is into this hobby yet. The load factor according to him on this airline has been average. Most of the passengers that fly to Jakarta are based in Kuwait and not many join this sector.

Soon it was time to board, 4 of us made our way to the aircraft. The old cabin interior reminds me of the good old days in the 90s! There were PTVs but those are the very first generation type.

The aircraft pushed back late despite only 4 of us on board this sector, I had no idea why. The Captain didn't give any reason but he updated us the routing and the weather at Jakarta. This set of crew were fresh, taken over the inbound flight from Kuwait. They consist of mixed nationality - mostly Asians. I spotted a Korean and a Japanese but they were not serving my cabin. Interesting! 

We had a gentle take-off on runway 32R and after a few turns, we headed to our assigned route to our destination. 

Once the seat belt sign went off, it was time to explore the cabin and take some photos! The cabin crew were great and they allowed me to take as many as I like. Unfortunately they were busy, otherwise I wouldn't mind taking photos with a few of them. Unlike my Royal Jordanian experience (My Royal Jordanian Trip report), the atmosphere on board this flight was very relax and calm. That's what flying should be all about. Didn't see any Air Marshall but one thing for sure, photography in the cabin is allowed as long as you don't disturb anyone. The passengers were not concerned at all and some even smiled at me! 

Photos of the cabin




Legroom space is adequate, however there was tissue papers in the rack, the airport cleaners must have missed it, how could they? 







Personal TV is below the seat.



Still remember the good old days? The new cabin doesn't have this any more.




2 windows for myself!



Luckily, no one was beside me. 


Excellent window view! This was to be my entertainment for the flight! Who needs the PTV? 


The J class seats 






My original seat was supposed to be one of these! Empty business class cabin, I think there were a few passengers in First class. Was it worth paying more for this? You decide. 


The divider between Y and J class, it wasn't closed at all during the flight since the seats were empty. One couple move to one of those seats during the flight but was told by the crew to move back. 


                                           The Y class cabin







Overhead cabin was show some boring program. 



Even though the cabin is outdated, the seat is comfortable and legroom space (I tried an empty seat a few rows behind mine) is good enough for me. The obvious part is the IFE system which is definitely non-AVOD (Audio Video on Demand) and if you are flying on a longer sector such as Kuwait-Kuala Lumper, you are better off with your own tablet or other electronic devices.






What's inside the seat pocket? 








Once I settled down into my seat after a little tour around the cabin, meal service started. It was a good timing too, I was feeling quite hungry at that point. 

I had a choice between Chicken or Beef, I went for Beef and no regrets at all. It was one of the best in-flight meals I had for quite a while! 


I could have asked for a 2nd serving! Got to fly with this airline again to try the chicken meal. I was told it was just as delicious. 

All I can say is you can't ask for a better flight than this! Everything went well, the 2 hours flight felt like it was only 45 minutes. 

Window shots (From take-off to landing)




















































When you see this, don't panic! This is the reverse thrust that helps to slow the aircraft down. 








Finally, seeing the Garuda's Liverpool plane in CGK for the first time.





The aircraft would parked at CGK's remote parking lot until around 9 pm before being prepared for its flight back home via KUL at around 1125pm. 


Video of the take-off and landing 







My ratings

On-ground service (KUL): 6/10
Website: 7/10 (Apart from the seat glitch, the website is fine)
In-flight service: 8/10
In-flight meal: 10/10 (Absolutely love it)
Cabin interior: 5/10
Aircraft cleanliness: 4/10
Punctuality: 6/10
PTV: 3/10
Aircraft: 10/10 (Flew beautifully)
Seat comfort: 8/10
Overall rating: 67/100


Conclusion


Paying $80 for this flight is a bargain. Not only I get to experience a retro cabin, I also get to add this exotic airline into my flight logbook. Thanks to the 5th freedom rights that allowed us to experience something different from the top class airlines. My first impression of this airline has ended in a positive note. Despite the outdated cabin, the plane itself is well maintained and as for the cleanliness of it, I blamed it on the cleaners in KUL rather than the airline. The cabin crew on board could only do this much! Before this flight, I wasn't a fan of the A340-300 but after flying on it, I appreciated it even more now. This type is currently being phrased out by most airlines now. So if you guys have a chance do fly this aircraft and of course give this airline a try. Once upon a time, I was at the old viewing gallery in Changi Airport, facing the C1 gate with this aircraft parking in front of me. I told myself at that time that I didn't think I would ever fly on this carrier but in 2014, I had done it! Don't worry about the safety record of this airline, its good.

Hope you enjoy my report. 

Do check out my other parts of my Indonesia trip

KalStar and Trigana trip postponed
Sriwijaya SJ267 SUB-CGK (B735)
Silk Air MI321 KUL-SIN (B738)
Garuda's CRJ1000 experience
Garuda's Airbus A330-200 experience

Cheers,
Charles Ryan Teo




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