On March 13th, the country of Kuwait officially closed off its airspace to regularly-scheduled passenger flights in an attempt to protect its residents from the fast spread of COVID-19. It’s difficult to know how effective these measures were as the country’s infection rate has skyrocketed since. In the past month, we’ve only seen special repatriation flights by a handful of airlines. German carrier Lufthansa hopes to offer one of the next scheduled services.
In a special letter distributed to select embassies in Kuwait, Lufthansa had the following to say:
“Lufthansa German Airlines is planning a commercial flight on 16th April 2020 at 22:45 (subject to the approval of the Kuwaiti authorities, which is of course required) in order to provide further travel possibilities within the given restrictions due to the ongoing Corona-crisis. Announcements about this flight will be shared via the respective embassies and business councils.”
The letter goes on to share the prices and options for the special flight.
Roughly three times more than “normal”
Lufthansa lists four cities and the prices for each in economy, premium economy, and business. The four cities are Frankfurt, Chicago, Newark, and Toronto.
Set out in Kuwaiti Dinar, the prices are outrageous once you convert them to a more common currency. Providing economy prices as examples we see the following:
- Frankfurt: 361KWD – US$1,160
- Chicago: 580KWD – US$1,870
- Newark: 523KWD – US$1,680
- Toronto: 540KWD – US$1,736
It’s even worse considering these are all one-way flights, and of course, prices for premium economy and business go way up from here. For reference, we have seen round-trip flights from Amsterdam and Paris for as little as US$400.
Is this fair? We must consider the fact that the number of passengers traveling will be far lower than normal and airlines have taken huge losses in the past month. It’s certainly difficult in these unprecedented times to know what is a “fair” price for a specially scheduled flight…
The flight may not go ahead
Interested travelers are asked to contact Lufthansa’s customer service office in Dubai via phone or email to express interest. In the bottom portion of the document, Lufthansa says “once we have reached a certain demand threshold, all passengers who signed up. . . will be contacted by our service center.”
Therefore, it’s very possible that this flight will not actually go ahead.
In fact, since this document was distributed, we have seen reports of Kuwait’s intentions to open up its airport to commercial flights once again. The intention behind this is to allow foreigners and expats the ability to leave. However, no concrete ruling or detailed announcements have yet been made by the government.
Despite official government news, there does seem to be progress. In fact, the Canadian embassy in Kuwait issued the following notice:
“Please note that starting on April 14 Qatar Airways will have two daily flights from Kuwait to Doha. Canadian citizens hoping to return to Canada should consider this option with the connecting flight to Montreal from Doha. Interested parties should book their flights directly on the Qatar Airways website, which should be functional shortly.”
We recently checked Qatar Airways’ site and low and behold, flights are available – at much lower prices too. For example, on April 16th, Kuwait to Toronto via Doha is listed for as low as US$1,202. This is roughly 30% less. This is certainly a little more in-line with what we are used to seeing pre-COVID-19.
Indeed, in light of this new development, it would be a miracle if Lufthansa was still able to gather enough passengers for its special April 16th flight.
It was shocking when we first found out that Australians seeking to return home from South America were forced to buy one-way economy tickets for $5,500 Australian dollars (US$3,400). But in this new aviation climate, we are all having to adjust our expectations of what a flight should cost.
Still, these can be very tough pills to swallow. At times, they can seem even predatory. In fact, Qatar Airways had made attempts to arrange a special repatriation service to Montreal from Kuwait. Their asking price for a one-way ticket in economy: 790KWD – or US$2,540.
Now that commercial flights are starting to resume, travelers can be grateful that they can leave the country without leaving all their money behind as well.
What do you think? Are the prices for special repatriation flights predatory or a financial necessity? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.