Saudia first impressions

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  • superchris

    Had an opportunity to fly Saudia for the first time last week. Slightly odd route from DXB to Delhi via Jeddah. Good fare in business class.

    Putting aside the obvious huge cultural differences, its was a pretty solid experience but lacking some of the wow they are clearly applying to some of their more high profile routes right now.

    4.30 am flight from Dubai, interestingly they sent me to a partner lounge rather than the skyteam one (it was too early to question it and lounge was fine). Shorter flight was on a rather ageing A320 with tired looking 2 x 2 seating. There may have been some entertainment I slept for most of the two hours.

    Excited to arrive in Jeddah in what was the new terminal (airport?), very odd experience at first. Place was like a ghost town and was unconvinced I was ever heading in the right direction for the first 10 minutes of the walk to the transfer hall.

    Eventually got there and quickly through security I found myself in their new Al Fursan lounge. Very impressive indeed although only about 3 sleep pods which were occupied the whole time. Nice business area, good hot buffet (although I cant get on with foul medames which is a traditional Saudi breakfast.)

    A few hours later on board the longer flight to Delhi, 777-300. Again very old 2x2x2 product but perfectly comfortable for the 4 people booked in business. Food was a repeat of the first flight. One meal service for a 6 hour flight but interestingly had no other food other than the breakfast.

    At one stage a staff member offered me a cookie from her own handbag – very kind but I refused.

    Dry airline so no alcohol but date smoothies – wow! Where have these been all my life.

    Clearly this is an airline which is going places but lounge aside in Jeddah has some work to do upgrading its older products around its network.

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    Saudia seem to be making a push. Was surprised when colleagues told me they were going to BKK from London on Saudia. A new’Dubai’ perhaps, especially with all the construction work going on building holiday resorts..

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    They are also re-branding with a new livery. Indeed it is a tweak on their I think 70s-80s livery! Maybe BT will do a piece on it.


    I would definitely consider it on a long haul flight if the price and timings were right. I believe they have proper flatbeds on their long haul routes and the lounge at Jeddah was very good.

    I can also confirm that you feel far fresher having drunk fruit juice and smoothies than working your way through an alternate carriers wine list!

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    I’ve never flown Saudia but, if you go by any of the main airline vloggers, they seem to have a very long way to go.

    It will also be fascinating to see what happens when Riyadh Air becomes established. Both being state-owned, will they compete with each other? Will they pay the same wages?


    I flew Saudia Business Class just before COVID and although I was overall impressed (especially for the fare paid) there were some eye openers.

    The first was the crew. It was a mix of expat female crew predominantly from SE Asia working alongside local Saudi male crew. Which was interesting. On boarding the Saudi males were busy watching videos on their phones and such and during the flight they sat in vacant business class seats and chatted whilst being served business class food by the female flight attendants. I found the female flight attendants great and when chatting with them was surprised that most of them had been at Saudi for quite some time and enjoyed it. I mentioned the male crew not doing much and the female crew member said to me ‘believe me, its better that way. We just prefer when they stay out of the way and let us get on with it’ lol.

    I found the food pretty good as well. I obviously knew it was a dry airline and this didn’t bother me at all as I am not much of a drinker but what I was disappointed with was the lack of any kind of premium non alcoholic drinks. I was expecting mocktails and fresh juices and smoothies and there was none of that. Each meal was just served with a glass of water. It seems from the OP’s review that this may have changed though.

    The seating on their 787’s was brilliant, a standard reverse herringbone set up.

    IFE was of course interesting. They take censoring to next level. It was funny watching episodes of ‘Friends’ where even a little bit of upper cleavage was blurred out.

    I think the biggest disappointment overall was JED airport. I know they have moved terminals now but good lord the previous one was like something out of a third world country. I’d rather fly through LOS, ADD or DAC any day than that absolute chaotic dive they used to operate out of.

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    Ok, thanks. I will keep it in my mind.


    I first flew Saudia on the 13th October 1983 so just over 40 years ago and I still have my ticket. The one way fare was over £600 for LHR to JED in Y.

    I flew internally too to Abha and they used a L10-11 with the most amazing First Class. The seats swivelled and you could ace backwards. I was easily impressed but I was a young man!

    I lived in Saudi Arabia for two years but besides the internal services I never flew Long haul again.

    Their rebirth is all part of the Kingdom’s drive for tourists. It is now possible to enter quite easily and there is a simple visa application. I do quite like the idea of returning to somewhere after such a long time and it is on the bucket list but the other half is not so keen on the dress code

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    I flew LGW-JED-DXB with Saudia last Saturday.

    The 789 has excellent flat beds, similar to KLM and the sub 2h30 connection on a A320 had 2×2 with 45″ of pitch.

    Food was hit and miss, the chicken thighs on the first leg were disppointing, whilst the Byriani on the JED-DXB leg was excellent, on a par with restaurant food.

    The arabic coffee and dates were a nice touch, as were the smoothies – the date is excellent and the antiox mixed berries very pleasant.

    Service was variable, but they got the job done at the end of the day.

    The connection through the new terminal at Jeddah was smooth and quick.

    I costed this trip and KLM wanted £3,800, SV a modest £1619.

    I’m looking forward to the return trip, this coming Saturday, to catch up on some reading and have a kip in the 789.

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    Robert Stevenson

    FDOS, what was the load like on the Lgw flight?


    Business was nearly full (22/24) and I think I heard the despatcher mention 220 in Y, the gate (52) was pretty rammed.

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    Call me an alcoholic, but excepted for domestic flights in KSA, no dry airline for me… Thank you anyway for the reviews, that give me the impression that Saudia remains pretty much Saudia.

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    Just a follow up on the return trip.

    Flights on time, service decent, flat bed wonderful. Overall, a middle of the road experience that I found good vfm.

    If you like a drink, then choose another airline, that suits me as it helps keep Saudia’s business class affordable in comparison with others, who charge far higher prices.

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