Dear Kuwait airport: step it up

Kuwait airport. I never seem to get this place.
As I grew up in Kuwait, I’ve seen it grow bigger and better throughout the years.
I can’t really remember how the departure and the arrival areas were but I know that they were pretty close in distance and things were somewhat simple and fine.
This was how the check-in area looked like 12 years ago..

Of course, now things have been improved and the check-in area has been replaced with many other check-in areas.

This is a part of the new airport

The upper floor is the departures area with all the check-in counters and the lower floor is the arrivals.

I remember back then when it had an awesome cafeteria and my dad used to take us there for breakfast. That nice restaurant has been transformed into a big mosque.

The once small yet cozy airport turned into a somewhat bigger airport with lots of restaurants, shops and many more to accommodate the large numbers coming through. According to Wikipedia, almost 8 million passengers came through those counters in the past 5 months only. Good on you, Kuwait airport and all the best. But what exactly is MY problem with Kuwait airport?

Last week, I was on a short trip to Qatar. As I received an email with the details of that trip, I was informed that the Qatar airport is an old one and that I needed to follow directions to get there without any hassles. With that email, I expected the worst and made sure to stay alert.

Reaching Qatar was a bit of a shock to me as my worst expectations were met with a slap across the face. Qatar’s OLD airport was actually so much better than Kuwait’s NEW airport!!

Qatar’s old airport (which they are planning to I don’t know.. renew? or shut down? not sure.. but they weren’t very happy with it) was easier to go through than Kuwait’s. Everything was highly organised, up-to-date and nothing screamed old but the marble floors which were maybe a bit similar to Kuwait’s airport. Not THAT old.

Meet and greet by Al Maha services in Qatar airport.. royalty!

In Qatar, they use biometric identification and authentication to manage the high number of travelers making the check-in and boarding processes much easier and less time consuming for everyone.

Iris recognition systems such as IrisGuard have already been deployed in the UAE not only to ease the whole process, but to maintain security as the video below shows

As for the residents of UAE and GCC citizens, Dubai has opted for E-gate cards to facilitate access to those who travel frequently.

Check it out here. Or just watch this..

But in Kuwait? You have to just stand in line for your turn and go through outdated fingerprint scanners. Not to mention the other things that happen during the whole process that make you wish you could just rip your passport and go back home and call it a day deciding to never leave again.

A part from the lack of technology which is very much needed in an airport that is supposed to handle millions of visitors throughout the year, I have a huge problem with the attitude of some of the officers at Kuwait airport.

Let me tell you some interesting stories that I’ve personally witnessed during this last trip and please bare in mind that something similar happens EVERY TIME I travel to and from Kuwait. EVERY TIME.

As I stood there waiting for my turn to come, I noticed that the airport was packed with people from India and neighboring countries. Most of them probably leaving Kuwait for the first time in years. Those unfortunate human beings would always go through hell with an officer for no goddamn reason other than that the officer felt like it. I’ve seen Egyptians go through some of that as well and the victims would usually suck it up and do what they’re told. or YELLED AT.

A group of 3 were standing in the adjacent line and as the lady officer signaled the man to come forward, the 2 -unlucky- females followed his trail carrying a shit load of bags along and waiting for the lady officer to process their passports. The officer was not very pleasant at all as her face conveyed her lack of tolerance mixed with disgust.

The officer also didn’t seem to like the fact that the ladies were “too close”. She started yelling at them to go back behind the yellow line. Once, twice, three times.. but they didn’t get her. They didn’t understand what she was yelling and they were absolutely terrified. The man started trembling asking the ladies to take a step back but their shock was not helping. One lady managed to just take a step back still standing too close according to the officer.

Houston, we have a problem!

I was watching the whole situation kind of amused by the lack of communication between both sides at the beginning but nothing was amusing about her yelling in a language they didn’t obviously understand. Then suddenly, the officer got up, left her counter, came all the way to the other side and started yelling at the women asking them to go back!

She actually delayed the whole queue to prove that she is in charge while those poor women stumbled and ran around like little chicks. The officer was dead serious about it and she kept standing there giving them a dirty look until she made sure they were way behind the goddamn yellow line! She even signaled them back and back and back just to prove she’s boss.

I was so infuriated by the lack of respect and professionalism that woman displayed. The fact that you, lady OFFICER, disrespected those people that bad disqualifies you instantly. I wouldn’t want that woman to process my papers with her nasty attitude if she was the last person on earth to do it.

Everyone just stood there like nothing happened and those poor women took their turn and were also humiliated further more. I just can’t believe that they allow people like those to deal with other nationalities in this shameful way. I would like to imagine this situation happening with a diplomat or a very well-connected business man and see how things would unfold. But the fact that this lady knew that those poor people would not be lucky enough to stand up for themselves and won’t be able to get her out of that seat and back to a kitchen for good helped her behave the way she did in front of HUNDREDS of people. Do you think anyone around her would have bothered to correct her? Hell no. Her colleagues seemed to be more terrified and disgusted than I was and some just enjoyed the event.

What a shame.

When I reached Qatar, I saw how the officers there dealt with people. Thousands of people. Everything was organized although the numbers were probably ten times the number of people in Kuwait airport and when I lost my way there, they were more than happy to help. And extremely friendly. Not even in a casual manner. I managed to make a couple of friends while I waited for the shuttle to arrive after stepping out in the wrong station.

On the way back to Kuwait, same thing. Officers in Qatar airport were more than friendly and it took me less than 3 minutes to reach to the other side and just wait for my flight! Can you even imagine?

When my plane landed in Kuwait, I expected the same scenario and I was not disappointed. Every time I arrived to Kuwait, the whole experience just repeats and each time it is WORSE.

This time, a male officer was our hero. While it was less crowded than any other time, the officer decided to open the counter for things to go smoother. That is one point for him. 2 men managed to reach before me and both were Indian. First guy stood there while the officer’s face radiated disgust. He asked him with a harsh tone for the visa. The man didn’t understand and handed him the passport instead. He repeated “VISA. VISA. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!” in Arabic and the man still didn’t get it. He handed him the boarding pass. The officer threw it back to his face and went berzerk yelling “go to that office. NOW! GET OUT OF MY FACE!” as the poor man still did not understand why the officer went mad and sent him across the hall to the security office. He just backed off behind the line and stood there still wondering what the hell went wrong. The officer called the other man forward and as this guy seemed to understand a bit of Arabic, he also managed to piss the officer off by failing to put his finger properly on the fingerprint scanner. He kept yelling at him and then grabbed his finger and pressed it hard and processed his papers then told him to scram!

My turn now! I was ready to put up a fight if that officer gave me the same attitude. The officer asked me nicely to come forward and his face instantly changed. That was one of the most disgusting things I’ve come across in my whole life. The man clearly had an issue. If you’re willing to be nice to me, can’t you make it a general rule and be nice to everyone?! I didn’t say a word. Just handed him my passport with a poker face and left as quick as I could.

I need to add another situation that happened during my last trip to UAE. I arrived very late at night and the same hall was packed like hell. Waiting in a line of probably no less than 50 (per queue), I noticed that out of all the counters, only less than half of them were open! and out of that -less than a half-, another half was for GCC citizens and diplomats! The queues were just too long that the queue reached to the steps leading to the area.. TOO CROWDED. The GCC and diplomats counters had way shorter queues of a maximum of 5 per queue.

As we stood there tired and almost falling asleep, the officers at the empty counters just sat there looking at the people not even bothering to open those counters after they have finished processing papers. One man attempted to approach one of those counters but the lady officer took a look at his passport and said “Go back, you’re not a GCC citizen!”. After standing there for almost half an hour and witnessing that shit, I couldn’t hold it. I marched towards that same woman and said while smiling: “Why don’t you just open the counter and make our lives easier? it’s 3 AM and we are all tired.” She didn’t even look at me when she shooed me and said “go back in line” in the most annoying, condescending attitude ever! I stood there trying to hold myself and said “I am not going back in line and you don’t tell me to go back in line while you’re obviously here to do a job which you don’t seem to be good at. I’m not going back.” She gave me a dirty look and said: “You’re not going to teach me how to do my job and if you don’t like it, I can send you to the security office right there (pointing in that direction) and they will deal with you.” I answered: “well, please do then!”. The same man who approached the counter kept asking me to “sally 3ala elnaby -say prayers to prophet Mohammed-” and get back in line while I answered him: “NO. I will NOT sally 3ala el naby and I want to see where this is going cuz this is pure BS!”.

Her colleague was a nice man and he just looked at me and nodded as a signal for me to come to his counter while that incompetent woman just sat there doing whatever nonsense she was doing. He also nodded at some of the crowd asking them to join the line and I got my thing done and left wanting to punch that woman in the face for being a disgrace to her country. That officer saved the day by simply doing what he is there to do: his job. And he was quite pleasant and helpful and managed to ease the tension by joking with everyone.

The lack of professionalism and manners of some of the officers in Kuwait airport is so appalling. Even more appalling than the fact that Kuwait airport is supposed to be the lobby of Kuwait, given more attention and more care. When I compare Kuwait airport to any of Dubai’s airports, I seriously wonder why can’t Kuwait have higher standards when it comes to technology and making the experience of coming through Kuwait less complicated and more safe..? For the sake of Kuwait, not anyone else, you know!

Kuwait needs to step it up with the airport because it is really embarrassing to have an airport stuck in 2001 while other countries are doing their best to make such an experience easier, safer and hassle free.

As for some of the staff at the airport, they obviously need to learn how to communicate with non-Arabic speakers. How can anyone hire someone in an airport without at least guaranteeing that they communicate effectively with others? What is wrong with hiring bilingual people? What about dealing with people with physical disabilities? I want to know if those same officers know sign language instead of another language? Blind people? How will one language come in handy? And to be honest, their “sign language” is not very pleasing as you might have noticed.. Not bilingual, bad “sign language”.. why are they even sitting there dealing with people if they can’t converse properly?

And as for their attitude problems, I suggest giving them some anger management classes and work on their customer relations and service skills as they seem to not understand that while we might be “guests” here (and some obviously don’t like that fact), we are not here to destroy Kuwait as some of us have been here forever and worked their asses off to remain here and give back to Kuwait. We’re not here for free and we are not criminals. And no one deserves to be treated like crap. People shouldn’t be treated with anything less than the respect you would want to be treated with if you were traveling to any other country. I only wish they go through the same shitty situations they put people through to understand how insulting they can be.

Dear officers at Kuwait airport: please do realize that you represent Kuwait. If you misbehave, we might get pissed for a while but YOU give your country and your nice people a BAD IMAGE. So the next time you hear someone say a bad remark about Kuwait or Kuwaiti people, please do excuse them as your behavior -which you make sure is witnessed by hundreds if not thousands on a daily basis- is the main reason why some people diss you and Kuwait.

That being said, I thank God that I have good Kuwaiti friends that prove those people do not represent the real Kuwaitis. Kuwait is not a bad country, Kuwaitis are not bad people yet when people in such positions are left there to misbehave in front of visitors, I can’t really understand how people are supposed to believe me when I say that this is not how Kuwaitis act at all.

God bless Kuwait and hopefully saves it from such nasty, unpatriotic people.

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4 thoughts on “Dear Kuwait airport: step it up

  1. Hey – if you REALLY want problems, try going to Israel. LOL. And then – try going from Israel to Kuwait. LOL. In Israel, everyone seems to be like a suspect, but I can’t blame them. But some Arab states won’t let you pass if you’ve got an Israeli stamp on the passport. I think you are all for world peace (I’m never quite sure), but that’s just a dream, isn’t it?

    • Hehehe well yes, it is true that some if not most Arab states won’t let you pass if you’ve got an Israeli stamp which is ridiculous. Add to this the fact that I am not allowed to travel to Israel as per the instructions on my passport! I sometimes wonder if they’re THAT macho and shit, why not just cut all ties? Because our rulers are full of shit. 😀

  2. I am Kuwaiti. thank you for spending long time writing about our ugly airport. Next time, I would like you to talk about a positive thing you’ve seen in Kuwait!!

    • I’m not sure why you’re offended by a post that has been written almost 2 years ago but I’m not the one you should be channeling your negative feelings towards.. afterall, the airport is still the same even 2 years later. Plus, pointing out the negatives does not mean that there are no positives but I’m guessing you couldn’t let it pass since an expat wrote that and not a Kuwaiti. Take a chill pill. 🙂

Say something nice or leave. Butthurt is intolerable yet I welcome positive criticism.

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