Touching down at Kuwait International Airport (KWI) in the midst of dusty sandstorm and a low ceiling, Aviation Business arrived in Kuwait for a day trip to visit Jazeera Airways’ new dedicated airport terminal.
Exiting out of the main airport after clearing immigration and customs, the walk over to the new 4,750m2 facility, which launched back on the 22 of May, is a surprisingly short one. In fact, the new terminal connects directly to KWI via an access corridor that transiting passengers can use for connecting flights with Jazeera Airways.
Entering the departure area of the new facility, which holds 12 check-in counters including a dedicated desk for oversized luggage, Aviation Business was greeted by Marwan Boodai, Chairman of Jazeera Airways, who provided a tour of the newly minted terminal.
“This is going to be one of the most advanced terminal designs … we focused on having something practical that we can offer our passengers without any hassle. It’s only ninety metres, from the door of the car to the gate of the aircraft. The shorter the distance, the better it is,” commented Marwan Boodai, Chairman of Jazeera Airways.
Jazeera Airways’ dedicated terminal, which the Chairman shared is the first to be owned by a non-government airline in the Middle East, was created to help alleviate overcrowding at Kuwait International Airport.
According to Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), KWI experienced a 17% increase in the number of passengers travelling through the main terminal in 2017. This equated to 13.7 million travellers, a significant jump over the 11.7 million reported in 2016.
During the same period, the number of passengers arriving at the airport reached 6.8 million. In 2016, 5.9 million travellers arrived at Kuwait International Airport.
While the DGCA has already put an expansion plan into action, an ongoing project that will see an increase in capacity at KWI to 25 million passengers thanks to a new passenger terminal, the project is not slated for completion until 2022.
Designated Terminal 5, Jazeera Airways’ new facility, which was designed in close collaboration with Pace Architecture Engineering + Planning (PACE), boasts an initial design capacity for 2.5 million passengers a year and is expected to handle roughly 250 flights per week. An area of 2,500m2 has been allocated for Duty-Free retail, cafes, as well as the airline’s prestigious Business Class lounge.
Day-to-day management of the terminal will be handled by Sahab Aviation Services, a separate subsidiary created by the airline.
Heading upstairs and across a connecting bridge to the adjacent parking structures, Boodai shared that the short-term parking space will be able to handle 350 vehicles, while long-term parking will have a capacity for 450 vehicles.
Additionally, passengers who opt to use the long-term parking will be able to take advantage of the Jazeera Park & Fly offering. The service allows travellers to check-in to their Jazeera Airways flight from the parking lot, hand off their respective luggage, and then travel to the main terminal via a shuttle service, bypassing traffic and airport queues.
Passengers can also have their car washed while they are travelling, for an extra fee.
The service is a recent example of the airline’s efforts towards revamping the travel experience, particularly focusing on reducing the stress of passengers.
“The highest stress levels for passengers is when they check-in … once they are on board, they sit down and relax and that’s when their stress level goes down. We’re going to make sure that this stress level is reduced all the way back to your car,” said Boodai.
The Chairman went on to highlight other improvements to the processing of passengers, which included the ability for travellers to check-in via mobile phone, as well as the implementation of automated check-in kiosks.
When asked on the deployment of specific technologies, such as smart gates and biometric security, Boodai shared that the airline has already taken the necessary steps to deploy these enhancements, but is waiting for the supporting infrastructure to be put into place.
“We’re ready for it at Jazeera. We’re ready for the whole thing but we don’t have the biometric security right now or the E-Gates, because that has to be connected with the Ministry of Interior. They are upgrading their system now and the testbed for Kuwait’s airports will be done with Jazeera,” explained Boodai.
The final leg of the tour brought Aviation Business to the terminal’s Arrivals area, where the Chairman highlighted the capabilities of the robust baggage handling system and novel RFID security scanner.
Capable of processing over 1,200 bags per hour, the baggage handling system is constantly monitored with a vast network of sensors that are designed to detect any tampering of luggage, from the moment it comes off the plane, to when it’s delivered to the carousel.
If the baggage scanner detects a suspicious item in a luggage piece, a tag is imprinted on the item, which is then detected by the RFID detector when the passenger exits the baggage area.
Security personnel will then intercept the passenger and conduct a more thorough examination of their luggage.
Arriving back at the entrance to the terminal, the Chairman capped off the tour with some insights on the current progress of the airline, beginning with upcoming routes that will soon be added to the network.
“Next month, we launch a service to Tbilisi, Georgia on the 12th of June and then on the 19th of June, we will launch a service to Lahore in Pakistan. Two weeks ago, we also launched our service to Medina,” commented Boodai.
“Moving forward, we will also be increasing frequencies to some of the key routes. For example, we see Saudi Arabia as having the potential for us to increase capacity to. Additional frequencies to places like Riad, Jeddah, and new routes into places such as Dammam and Qassim.”
Boodai added that once air services agreements are concluded between Kuwait and other countries, Jazeera Airways will increase services to places such as India, Pakistan, Oman, and Bahrain.
In terms of performance, Jazeera Airways not only comes off a rather profitable 2017 year, where the airline posted profits over $28m (KWD 8.5m) but also experienced a strong first quarter for 2018.
For starters, Jazeera Airways’ revenues surpassed $46m (KWD 14m), a 43% increase over the same period last year.
Load factors reached a high of 76%, which equated to a 5.4% increase over the first quarter of 2017, and the airline recorded over 403,000 passengers travelling with the airline in the same period. In the case of the latter, this constituted a 121,000 increase over the figure reported in 2017.
Jazeera Airways is also expanding its fleet. To date, the airline maintains eight Airbus A320s and is set to receive its first A320neo at the start of June.
Sharing that Jazeera Airways will be the first carrier in the region to operate the A320neo, the addition of the new aircraft into its fleet will give the airline added range, thus opening up new opportunities to acquire longer routes and new additions to the network.
When pressed on how he views the recent efforts of neighbouring GCC countries in transforming themselves into global hubs, such as the case with Saudi Arabia and Oman, the Chairman believes this development holds great promise for operators in Kuwait.
“We consider this a huge opportunity — the opening up of the economy and the social changes taking place in those countries. We see a net-positive impact for carriers because that just invites travellers from that region to explore more and visit other countries,” explained Boodai.
“We see that already happening with passengers from Saudi Arabia visiting Kuwait more frequently than before.
“In addition to that, we have a very strong home market where Kuwaitis are enthusiastic travellers. Per capita, they have travelled more than any other nationality within the GCC. They also have a high degree of disposable income.
“The GDP in this country is the second highest in this region. They have the money, the time, and the inclination to travel. That is something that as a Kuwaiti carrier, we see strong ecosystem in which we can operate,” he adds.