Kuwait Airways vs Etihad – Which Airline Is Better In Economy?

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Full-service airlines in the Middle East offer some of the best service in economy, as far as I’m concerned. Whether its the big ME3 (Qatar, Etihad, Emirates) or smaller players like Saudia and Kuwait Airways, most passengers will have a fairly enjoyable long-haul experience in economy. Today we’ll compare the economy experience of Kuwait Airways and Etihad and examine the pros and cons of each.

Kuwait (above) and Etihad (below) widebody cabins compared. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The comparison

In this review and comparison, we’ll put a Kuwait Airways 777 experience between Rome and Kuwait against an Etihad 787 journey between Rome and Abu Dhabi. Both journeys took place in the past six months with both cabins feeling relatively new.

Kuwait Airways 777. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Boarding the Etihad 787. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Space and seating

The Kuwait economy cabin feels visually minimal, simple, and clean. Aesthetically, I’m a fan of the slim dark-blue, cloth-covered seats. There’s not much more to say about the look other than that. Like Kuwait, Etihad’s cabin has a cloth fabric for its seat covers. I don’t really like the shade of brown that they used but that’s a minor point.

The Etihad economy experience also had one of the more interesting headrests I’ve encountered with the hundreds of flights I’ve flown. Every economy seat headrest has a solid, fixed, protruding ‘wing’ that juts out on one side. It juts out quite far to provide full head support if you choose to rest your head on it. I’m not sure if this is exclusive to Economy Space or if regular economy also has it.

Both cabins are laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration as you can see below.

Kuwait 777 cabin. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Etihad 787 cabin. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

I have to say the legroom is more difficult to compare as the check-in agent for the Etihad flight put me in Economy Space, which is normally a section travelers can pay extra for. I don’t believe Kuwait Airways has anything like this.

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Etihad’s Economy Space did deliver on its name, and there was a good deal of space to stretch out – not to mention an empty seat next to me. However, I would have to say that Kuwait Airways’ regular economy seat pitch is quite sufficient as well.

As for seat width – Kuwait and their wider 777 takes it for me with the 18 inches that is offered. Etihad’s 787 only offers 17 inches of seat width.

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The legroom is sufficient. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Legroom in Etihad Economy Space. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The one unique thing about Kuwait’s widebody cabin is the presence of personal air nozzles – something that I have found to be quite rare on large aircraft. Etihad doesn’t have this – but it does have a fold-out cupholder for use when the tray-table is closed.

Air nozzles on a widebody isn’t the most common. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Both airline seats offered in-seat power and full international electrical sockets in addition to USB outlets. Kuwait’s is down below the seat while Etihad’s is in the seatback in front. This comes down to personal preference. While Kuwait’s plug location is more difficult to access, it’s easier to get around if you have to get out of your seat.

I think for a lengthy flight I would prefer Etihad’s seat IF I didn’t have a window seat. I think the side head-rest feature is really useful and effective for sleeping.

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Inflight entertainment

Kuwait Airways’ IFE Systems. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Etihad Airways’ IFE Systems. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Both systems feel fairly responsive, fast, and up-to-date. The selection of content seemed to be decent on both but that is a much more personal preference. The one feature Etihad has over Kuwait is the fancy touchscreen remote control – which is more often seen on business class cabins. This is a nice feature that allows you to sit back and control the system in a relaxed position.

Both airlines offer inflight WiFi as paid services. Other airlines I’ve flown in the past – namely Air France and Saudia – have offered a basic WiFi service for free that allows messaging apps on your smartphone to work.

Food and beverage

The quality of both meals is comparable. I thought they were both quite good and there were no complaints. It does appear that Kuwait Airways offers a salad course where Etihad does not. Everything else seems to be almost one-for-one comparable. Which meal do you think looks more appetizing?

Kuwait Airways’ meal in economy. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Etihad Airways’ meal in economy. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The one thing Etihad has that Kuwait Airways does not is alcohol. That would certainly be something to take into consideration if you enjoy having a glass of wine or beer with your meal.

Conclusion

This comparison is a difficult one. Both airlines offer great, friendly service in economy. Both meals are of satisfactory quality and taste and they are both disappointing in terms of not having free WiFi.

Outside of the aircraft, you might enjoy transferring through Kuwait Airways’ new and much smaller T4 terminal rather than the chaotic scene of Etihad’s hub in Abu Dhabi. However, Etihad being a larger airline also means you’ll have more destinations to travel to.

As much as I hate to say it, I think I have to conclude that this is a draw. Both airline experiences were solid and have their own little features that make them unique.

After looking at the photos above and reading about my experiences, which airline would you prefer? Let us know in the comments!

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