A Look At Saudia’s Onboard Prayer Room

So my first flight on Saudia wasn’t exactly a five star experience, to say the least. Unrelated to my specific experience, there is one other aspect of Saudia’s planes that I wanted to write about.

Possibly the most precious commodity on an airplane is space, so I’m always impressed when an airline adds passenger amenities that directly take away from the seat count.

Some airlines put bars on planes…

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-077

…while others put lounges.

Korean-Air-A380-Bar-1

Saudia, on the other hand, has quite the opposite. They have a prayer room on their longhaul planes, and they even market it. Here’s an ad they did about their prayer room:

I find the ad to be rather amusing, given that the imagery in the first 25 seconds and the imagery in the last 15 seconds paint very different pictures.

So I couldn’t help but check out the prayer room on my Saudia flight earlier today.

The prayer room is located at the very back of the plane, in the center section between the last three rows of economy. There are curtains on both sides.

Saudia-Prayer-Room-1

It’s a fairly large space, and the signage suggests there’s room for 10 people.

Saudia-Prayer-Room-3

I went back a couple of times, though only ever saw one person use it. There were also rugs, as you’d expect.

Saudia-Prayer-Room-2

It’s certainly an interesting feature and quite an investment, when you think of how many seats you could otherwise fit in that space. Meanwhile other airlines like Qatar Airways make a point of telling you to stay seated while praying.

Qatar-Airways-prayer

I’ve certainly seen tons of people pray at their seats over the years (especially on Gulf carriers), so it’s interesting that Saudia continues to offer these prayer rooms. Then again, as an airline they don’t exactly seem focused on maximizing profits, so I guess it’s not too surprising.

Interesting stuff!

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. “Then again, as an airline they don’t exactly seem focused on maximizing profits, so I guess it’s not too surprising.”

    The whitewash continues.

  2. In Islam, standing is one of the pillars of prayer (salat/namaz) so unless you are incapable of standing or there is turbulence (or seat belt sign is ON for any other reason) a Muslim person is supposed to make a good faith effort and try to pray standing. I mean if you can stand and walk towards the restroom what’s preventing you from standing for prayer?

    Airlines (Gulf and non-Gulf both) are generally very cooperative in giving you space to stand and pray (which takes 2 minutes at max) usually by the toilet or the kitchen area so its interesting that Qatar is actively discouraging to stand while praying …

  3. Ben will probably never fly LY or visit Israel. He’s bailed on at least two occasions. He did list it as one of his destinations for 2016.

  4. A majority of Saudia’s traffic (and it’s cash cow) is for the Mecca pilgrimage. I’m quite sure, those specific flights would have a line to get in there. ‘Holier than thow’!

  5. Though the EK A380 does not have a dedicated prayer area I noticed on my recent flights that in the mini economy cabin right in front of the aircraft behind the last row of the middle 4 seats there is enough space to lay down the prayer mat and pray while standing.

    I asked the purser whether I could pray there. She was like surely. I guess this is an unofficial prayer area as the body language of the purser suggested that many people often pray in that space. She was also proactive in checking with the pilots over phone about the sunrise timings in order to facilitate my prayer.

    Though on my return flight I was asked not to pray since the seat belt sign was on. By the time the seat belt sign went off the prayer time was past.

  6. Just a small tidbit:

    I worked in Kuala Lumpur back in the ’90s and flew back & forth between LAX and KUL on Malaysia Airlines. MH planes back then also had prayer rooms. I have no idea if that’s still the case.

  7. Religion is how unsophisticated people are brainwashed and controlled. It is a cover for psychopathic actions. Ban Religion.

  8. Does the monitor in there provide the in-flight map to help determine the direction of Mecca or is there any other guidance?

  9. To amuse generally suggests some form of entertainment or titillation. Like “sheldoncooper” asks, I’d also like to know what exactly about advertisement amuses you, Ben. Were you expecting the prayer room on an airplane to look exactly like a mosque–or one that is likely fabricated in a studio?

  10. How do they segregate the male and female areas, as is Saudi custom? Or is this only for men?

  11. One of the highlights of my flying was a night flight on Christmas – there was a priest on board and when he heard that one of the FAs said he had not been able to go to Church, he celebrated Mass for him and two other FAs in the rear galley on one of the carts – and several passengers joined. It was festive and a great way to honor them for working on a holiday.

  12. @TheRealBabushka: The separating of men and women for prayer isn’t a Saudi custom, it’s a requirement in Islam. But funny enough the mosque in Makkah, which is the holiest place in the world for Muslims, is basically the only mosque in the world where men and women pray together. This is usually only during Ramadan/Hajj (busiest times) because it’s too difficult for men and women to be separated as prayer starts when circling around the kabah. Kind of ironic.

  13. All the airline products have been reviewed, all the redemption holes exploited (and revealed, sometimes, after the fact) and OMAAT has run out of interesting new content. Smoking Chinese pilots, stalking employees, on duty crew stealing Ben’s fish and now baiting readers with prayer spaces. This is classic “jump the shark.”

  14. Each and every airlines company has all the right to give their passengers the best service possible. Well done, Saudia Airlines!

  15. I guess having this makes sense, if something like this could sway a potential customer into choosing Saudi over another airline. I imagine this is a pretty big selling point. If not for its practical use, but for the image that it presents of the airline.

  16. “I went back a couple of times, though only ever saw one person use it. There were also rugs, as you’d expect.”

    Do you have minimal awareness of your tone? This is like someone going to an altar and saying “there are also some biscuits, as you’d expect”.

    It’s very clear from this blog that you never take others privacy into account and approach the world as a big museum of amenities for you to gawk at and review. The sign clearly said “not to be occupied but for prayer” and I don’t imagine you were praying to the lord of krug back there?

  17. “Then again, as an airline they don’t exactly seem focused on maximizing profits, so I guess it’s not too surprising.”

    Ben, im dissapointed by this last sentence. You seem to applaud airlines who yank out rows of seats for an onboard bar yet are condescending to those that place a prayer room?

    How is the use of space for an onboard bar different than for a prayer room?

    If you want to fly the world airlines to experience cultures, norms and values then at the very least keep an open mind about it. If you’ll fly them just to poke fun at how different their culture is then you really should only be sticking to your local home carrier.

    I enjoy your TR immensely but I found this one to be of poor taste and xenophobic at best.

  18. Its all hippocrites,when i see someone trying to pray on a flight and asking for space or quite standing on the passage like it happened once on Middle East airlines Air Lebanpn i d like to tell them Allah can wait till you arrive home to do your prayer,Allah made this religion very flexible beside are they keeping the direction of Mecca while tge plane is moving????so please Saudia stop your hippocrite advert.

  19. Is there a compass showing which way to Mecca? What if you start in one direction and the plane goes into a bank turn. Do you hop along with the compass needle?

  20. “Meanwhile other airlines like Qatar Airways make a point of telling you to stay seated while praying”.

    Maybe you have been too boozed-up during your Etihad flights to note that they have multiple prayer areas onboard their A380?

    “Importantly for the airline’s Muslim guests, Etihad Airways has developed prayer areas which can be curtained off for privacy and are equipped with a real-time electronic Qibla-finder showing the exact direction of Mecca based on the aircraft’s geographical position”.

    Maybe you could send Nick to investigate? Or is he still busy with cookie jars?

  21. @ therealbabushka

    Can i suggest you read “islam for dummies”.
    I have requested the publishers change dummies to fkn idiots!

  22. Regarding El Al..as an Israeli I would recommend to avoid.
    Had few flights that were ok, but most are sub standard in every way you can imagine.
    Any other airline :))

  23. @Petter Niklas Uh, someone very vaguely critizing Saudi-Arabia, oh no, we shouldn’t allow that.

  24. I’ve heard that the prayer room is also used to behead people.
    I really like that it’s a full-service airline.

  25. @Credit

    I am agnostic and not a big fan of organized religion but passing laws about what or how people believe is Orwellian and not a society that I would want to live in.

    Feel free to find an empty island for you and the rest of the thought police and start your own little country. Cheers!

  26. @Dougg

    People were living on their own islands minding their own business until you white boy Americans and Europeans came and annexed it.

    Bloody hypocrites.

  27. Last time I prayed on a ksa flight was when I flew Bahrain to Jeddah. The service on the airline I found to be sub par however that’s mainly because as a whole hospitality (led by locals) is a fairly new concept in the country other than the traditional bedioun traditions.

    In regards to other questions you don’t need to adjust for the plane movements and it is always best to pray. Standing, sitting, in bed, sick or healthy. The best is to do your best pray on time or during the allocated time.

    Wishing Saudia continues to get better. But it is still miles to get to the standards or Emirates or Qataria.

  28. I have to agree with some of the posters on here. I really enjoy most of your TRs, but this one smacks of entitlement, privilege, and borderline xenophobia and Islamophobia. As YMH says, you’ve treated a space–one where people pray–as a museum that you feel like you can enter freely with little regard to its significance. Recognize your own privilege as a White, Western man in this situation and understand that your “anthropological” study of spaces echoes past travelogues of non-Western spaces and its inhabitants. To put it another way, you’re making judgments that, on the surface, appear innocuous and well-intentioned, but they ultimately objectify and aestheticize another’s culture/religion. As a White, Western man, you have the privilege to enter spaces that not many others cannot enter. History proves this time and time again. Before you write, think about *how* your language impacts other people and their perceptions them.

  29. Mark — was Ben’s willing choice to fly Saudi part of his “respect” campaign directed at the KSA’s treatment of gays? Odd way to go about it.
    This review smacks more of disrespect and blind ignorance of other religions/customs/traditions.

    Naturally, Ben will not comment or correct his actions.

  30. I’m not quite sure , if they have a prayer room inside el al israel, I see the jewish praying all the time on the flights to NY, specially JFK and LGA.

  31. What a galling idea, an airline amenity that is not tied somehow to consumption of products and services!

    Religion is so annoying, it’s always trying to make me think about things other than myself. Saudia would do us all a favour if they replaced this space with a nicely stocked snack bar, maybe even with magazines filled with glossy pictures of luxury goods we can ogle at and buy some day. Now that’s living!

  32. I have been in Saudi Arabia so many times for work, and I’m not a big fan of them, but I always remind myself (do your work and get back, they’re happy why you care?). I’m actually there right now!.
    I read your blog from time to time and as I expected you weren’t fair here, I don’t know why but maybe it’s a gay thing (how it sounds???).
    Your culture occupies other people’s countries in the name of freedom, but in some how it’s ok to criticize and mock others’ culture, I don’t know why but maybe it’s a gay thing (how it sounds???).
    I will boycott your blog, and I’m sure you won’t care because I know how your brain works, full of ignorant and Krug, ultimately it’s a gay thing (how it sounds???).
    People like you disgusts me, and you’re no different than the people who you’re criticizing them.
    Under your skin still a racist white arrogant, things like you make our lives even harder.

  33. Blogger is entitled to his opinion it’s a western belief. If he doesn’t like saudi culture, then stay out of saudi! But this blog was about an airline. I take from responses people can have opinions that all white people are rich and entitled, that’s ok to say, but saying there are mats is ignorant?

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