How Kuwait Airlines Started Life As A BOAC Subsidiary

Back in 1954, Kuwait Airways was officially born under the name Kuwait National Airways Company. The airline would be the flag carrier for the tiny country of Kuwait – a British protectorate from 1899 until 1961. With strong ties to its colonial power, much of Kuwait has a British influence. This includes its airline – which had a management contract with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation).

How Kuwait Airlines Started Life As A BOAC Subsidiary
The Airbus A330-800neo will be one of the newest additions to the fleet. Photo: Airbus

According to its website, Kuwait Airways initially had a limited network of Basra, Abadan, Beirut, Damascus and Jerusalem. It was because of economic hardship that the national government of Kuwait took a 50% interest in the airline.

It was in its first year that a five-year management contract was signed with British International Airlines (BIA). In fact, BIA was a BOAC subsidiary in Kuwait, providing charter flight operations and maintenance services. Later on, the government would go all-in and take a 100% stake in the airline.

The jet age

It was in the 1960s that the national carrier entered the jet age and rapidly expanded its route map, scheduling services to London three times a week. In 1962 Kuwait Airways leased a Comet 4-C, the world’s first jet-engined airliner.  Six years later, it took delivery of three Boeing 707s. It eventually became an all-Boeing 707 fleet with eight of the jets.

Then, in 1978, Kuwait Airways entered the widebody age. It was in this year that the airline took delivery of its first two Boeing 747-200s, adding a third the year after. Eventually, these aircraft would allow Kuwait Airways to reach as far as New York to the west and Manila to the east.​

Further modernization

Between 1980 and 1981 four B727-200s were delivered to the airline and two years later it further diversified its fleet with eight Airbus A310s and A300-600s joining the fleet. A few years after this, the airline took delivery of three Boeing 767-200ER aircraft.

How Kuwait Airlines Started Life As A BOAC Subsidiary
Kuwait Airways’ Boeing 777 is one of the later additions to the airline’s fleet. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The Iraqi invasion

In August 1990, the neighboring country of Iraq moved to occupy Kuwait. This resulted in a seven-month-long Iraqi occupation. It was because of this invasion that several Kuwait Airways planes were reportedly seized and removed by Iraqi troops.

According to a case launched in UK Court by Kuwait Airways against Iraqi Airways, when Iraqi forces took over the airport at Kuwait they seized ten commercial aircraft belonging to Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC).

These 10 aircraft included two Boeing 767s, three A300 Airbuses, and five A310 Airbuses. These aircraft were then moved by the Iraqis. By 9 August nine of these aircraft had been flown back to Basra, in Iraq. The tenth aircraft was flown direct to Baghdad a fortnight later.

Kuwait Airways was dissolved on 9 September by the Revolutionary Command Council of Iraq as it adopted a resolution, transferring all its property worldwide, including the ten aircraft, to the state-owned Iraqi Airways Co (IAC).

Kuwait Airways today

Kuwait Airways fleet now has a fleet of B777-300(ER), A320-200CEO, A320neo and A330-200 jets, making the total fleet size now 30 aircraft. The entire fleet has been fitted with the latest in-flight entertainment systems.

Next year the new Airbus A330-800 (A330neo) will join the fleet. Following this, the Airbus A350 will also be included.

“Kuwait Airways aims to re-establish its network to reach more than 46 countries around the globe with a firm commitment to providing the finest service and comfort to passengers while continuing to rank safety as one of highest priorities.”

Kuwait Airways aircraft
Kuwait Airways has a fleet of 10 Boeing 777s. Photo: Kuwait Airways.