Saudia – advice.

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  • rferguson

    Hi folks,

    Just after some advice from those of you that have travelled on Saudia. I’ve clocked up enough Oneworld tier points for Emerald and am curious to try a new carrier to SE Asia (and save a few coins in the process).

    I’ve found some good fares on Saudia…well one is very good the other quite exceptional.

    Both are departing from the continent and I have two options:

    The first is the ‘good’ fare and the aircraft are the new 777-300ER and 787-9. The flights are via JED with good transit times (around three hours in each direction).

    The second ‘exceptional’ fare is using the A320 on the europe – Saudi sectors and the 787-9 on the Saudi – asia sectors. There is also another negative with the exceptional fare – on the return there is a ten hour transit stop in JED and i’m aware that I have a greater chance of seeing a unicorn in JED airport than actually getting permission to leave the departures/transit area.

    I’ve been looking at plenty of online reviews and found quite a few on the new 777 and the 787 both of which look pretty good. Onemilatatime has several of interest.

    I’ve found very little on the A320 though. I know it’s basically a US-style domestic First Class set up however i’m not sure as to how else the service varies.

    The sector lengths on the A320 are around 6hrs…coupled with the ten hour transit in JED is it worth saving myself the £500 or am I being a glutton for punishment?

    Does anyone have any Saudi experiences or hints/tips to share?

    Oh yes…and I know i’ll have to go without a drink during the journey 🙂



    I live in Saudi, east coast, and wouldn’t consider any long transfer in Riyadh / Jeddah personally.

    While the lounges are not bad, they are not places to spend more than 2-3 hours at the most in.

    I don’t fly Saudia much, mainly due to the routes I take, but the food is generally very good, the service not bad and the hard product now more than acceptable.

    The 787 I think is same seating as CX/AA.

    10 hours in the transit lounge, not worth considering not matter what the saving!


    Absolutely agree with what first_class_please has already said.

    The food has always been better than expected on international flights and worse than expected on domestic flights. In flight entertainment is very limited. The programmes are heavily censored and women’s upper bidies are blurred out even when they don’t show cleavage (I had seen the programme before and know the actress’s style). You are quite correct in thinking you have a better chance of seeing a unicorn than getting out of the airport.

    Saudi airports are not fun places to spend time (although I was pleased to discover Dominos Pizza airside in Riyadh after one particularly bad day).

    I should be used to it by now but I still find prayers being broadcast over the PA system before take off to be unnerving. I would prefer my pilots to trust their skills and equipment rather than put their faith in God!

    I would happily spend 500 quid to avoid flying through there. Frankly, Jersey airport would be a better option.


    Its been a few years since I ventured to “that place” but my experience is that of the other posters, the less time spent in situ the better, in fact if you can avoid do so.. I once flew Brunei Air which is also a “dry airline” with the promise that you can bring your own booze, and even that I will never ever do again, there is something to be said to sit back and ask for a nice glass of wine or spirits….

    Get the price reductions just go into it with your eyes oh so very wide open….


    @rferguson While I have no direct experience I did stumble across this site which may help 😉


    I would echo the comments if avoiding a long transit stop, if you must then Riyadh rather than Jeddah, and I have seen an increasing number of transit passengers recently in Riyadh. Also the flights ex riyadh tend to have the newer hard product vs Jeddah. I recently took SV from Paris to Riyadh and had the newest 777-300 with flat beds a la AA/CX/AY but the return was via Jeddah and was angled lie flat in a 2/3/2 configuration.
    The 787 is the new product, and visa needed to exit the airport, so caveat emptor!
    I would avoid the A320 unless a 2 hr sector, I flew on it yesterday intra-Gulf and had great service from the crew, they are certainly making strides to up their game, but still behind QR and the other ME mega carriers.


    Personally I like Saudia, the crew are friendly, the food is good and the seats are comfortable.
    I’ve never transited RUH or JED other than domestic ex RUH to international at JED, so have only flown pint to point, but I too would balk at a 10 hour stay in Jeddah.

    Another thing to be aware of, is if for any reason your flight is cancelled or heavily delayed, even under those circumstances you will not be allowed to leave the airport unless you have a visa. I say this as recently a friend of mine who had a visa, but then exited, had his flight cancelled. He then had to spend almost 48 hours transit side as they would not let him back in.

    One final pointer, if all goes well, you’ll have no problems, but if something goes wrong to get any redress is very difficult, and unless you’re lucky you won’t get much sympathy either.


    I would agree with previous posters. JED airport is not the best in the world. The A320 business class offering is not too bad for a short flight. Don’t bother with the entertainment it’s not that good, fuzzed out most of the time and selection is not that good. Crew are usually quite good, don’t expect QR standard.

    The 787 is quite nice, but I didn’t like the 3 point seat belts. You do have to be careful that you don’t end up on an old 777-200, they are in poor condition. Again as others have said if things go wrong and a lengthy delay you have no chance of leaving the airport, there is no such thing as a tourist visa.

    Domestic and short haul they were good but on long haul they wouldn’t be my choice.


    One final point rferguson, I am making a huge assumption here that if you are female and you are delayed, your rights are even less than those of a male counterpoint ….

    The delta between the two sexes is abhorrent and could be an issue apart from being airport bound for the whole time….

    I travel on SAUDIA between LHR or CDG and RUH 12 times a year on the 777 in business class.
    1. The Skyteam lounges are good at LHR & CDG but I prefer the one at RUH. It’s never that busy, the seating and WiFi superb, the food is lovely, views great and it’s super clean the staff charming.
    2. The flights are always on time, the aircraft are spotless and seats great. The 4 across layout means you have direct aisle access but I always choose a window seat. It’s way better than BA and the same layout as Aer Lingus. The TV’s are huge and the Porsche designed amenity kits and duvets are lovely.
    3. The food is good, but not exceptional and the menus rarely change very much but it’s always beautifully presented and the fish courses are always good.
    4. Others have mentioned the prayers Pre-flight, lack of booze and and censored movies. The lack of booze isn’t a problem for me (although I love a drink!) and you’ll definitely arrive feeling fresher and (I’m not Muslim) but don’t take exception to the prayers. As for the movies, I don’t watch them (on any airline) as I prefer the documentaries and there are loads on SAUDIA – none are censored (that I’ve seen) and there’s loads of music choice and a great moving map.
    5. My negative isn’t the same as that of others – it’s simply that SAUDIA is boring! It’s clean, on-time and efficient but humorless and dull.
    6. My colleagues are all women and none have an issues flying on SAUDIA these days, even alone.

    If you’ve been offered a great deal and your aim is simply to get to your destination safely and feeling rested then my advice is to take the SAUDIA option. If you want a fun trip with banter and booze then SAUDIA won’t be for you.


    A couple of previous posters have mentioned women travelling in Saudi. Been there, done that. I never had any problems. Indeed, it many ways it is easier for women (not enough to make up for the driving issue though).

    In long queues, women are pulled aside and given preferential treatment at immigration. This used to apply only to arab and western women but now seems to be all women.

    Saudia have long boarding times because of the expectation that people will need to change seats. Women should not be seated next to a man who is not a family member so, once on board, the seat changing begins. The delay can be lengthy and annoying. However, the crew make every effort to accommodate people and even ask the non-muslim female passengers if they would like to move to female friendly seating.

    Also, flying in and out of Saudi is the only place I know where someone will trade a decent aisle seat for a small, cramped middle seat without a murmur in order facilitate a couple sitting together.


    Hi folks, many thanks for all your tips and advice!

    Thanks to your insights i’ve opted for the slightly more expensive deal via JED on the 777-300ER and 787. There is a similar fare via IST with TK but I have a slight fascination with Saudia so I will give it a go!

    I’ll make sure I do a TR on my return.

    Thanks again.

    Tom Otley

    We’re about to publish a Saudia review – but it’s an A320 one from Jeddah to Frankfurt. Would be good to read a long haul one.

    Flight review: Saudia A320 business class


    Thanks Tom, I found the review really interesting. Saudia seems to have a pretty decent product on their A320’s and they seem a perfect fit for medium haul daylight flights. I don’t think i’d like a night flight on one though.

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