Introduction: An Insane Week In The Sky
Review: China Eastern Business Class 777-300ER Los Angeles To Shanghai
Review: Grand Hyatt Shanghai
Review: China Eastern Lounge Shanghai Airport
Review: China Eastern Business Class A330 Shanghai To Colombo
Review: Hilton Colombo
Review: Qatar Airways Business Class A340 Colombo To Doha
Review: Oryx Lounge Doha Airport
Review: Royal Air Maroc Business Class 787 Doha To Casablanca
Review: Hyatt Regency Casablanca
Review: Royal Air Maroc Lounge Casablanca Airport
Review: Royal Air Maroc Business Class 787 Casablanca To Doha
Review: Qatar Airways Business Class A340 Doha To Colombo
Review: Saudia Business Class 777 Colombo To Jeddah
Review: Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport
Review: Saudia Business Class 787 Jeddah To Manchester
Review: Pakistan Airlines Business Class 777 Manchester To New York
Review: Airspace Lounge New York JFK Airport Terminal 5
Review: JetBlue Mint A321 New York To Los Angeles
Jeddah (JED) – Manchester (MAN)
Tuesday, August 3
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 5L (Business Class)
We boarded through door L1 at around 3:25AM. We presented our boarding passes to the cabin supervisor, who pointed us to the far aisle. For the most part Saudia has outdated premium cabin hard products, with their international first class product looking more like business class, and their business class looking 10 years past its prime.
That wasn’t the case on the 787. As a matter of fact, I’d argue Saudia’s 787 business class hard product is better than their 777 first class product.
Saudia’s 787s feature a total of 24 reverse herringbone seats, spread across six rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. These planes are quite new, so were in great shape.
I thought the cabin finishes were beautiful and understated, between the dark leather seats, faux wood consoles, etc.
I had assigned myself seat 5L, the window seat on the right side in the second to last row (Matthew, on the other hand, was in 4L). As it turns out, row five has a misaligned window, so that’s something to be aware of, as you’ll only have one window, while most other seats have two.
Saudia uses the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond business class seat. This is similar to the one available on Air Canada, China Airlines, Qatar Airways, Virgin Australia, etc. It’s slightly different than the Cirrus-style reverse herringbone seats, available on Air France, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, Finnair, etc.
With the Super Diamond seats, the TV is in a fixed position in front of you (rather than “flipping” out from the seat in front), and the tray table also slides out from the seat in front of you (rather than from the side console).
Generally I prefer sitting towards the back of the cabin, so next time I might select seat 6L, since it has a full complement of windows.
These reverse herringbone seats have shoulder harnesses you have to wear during takeoff and landing. Some airlines have these, while others don’t — I still haven’t figured out what about an aircraft’s certification causes this to be required (if anyone knows, I’d love to hear it!). For example, China Airlines’ business class seat is virtually identical, but doesn’t require the same shoulder harness.
Reverse herringbone seats are fairly spacious around the legs, including while in bed mode.
To the right of the seat was a large console which could be opened. Not only was there storage space, but it’s also where the entertainment controller, power outlet, and USB ports were located.
Immediately below the compartment on the right was a monitor where you could adjust the seat positions.
On the aisle-side was an armrest that could be raised and lowered (for takeoff and landing it had to be lowered). What’s convenient about this armrest is that it can be opened and used as a storage compartment.
I was happy to see that Saudia’s 787s have individual air nozzles, which a lot of international airlines don’t. To me that makes a big difference in terms of staying comfortable inflight.
Waiting at my seat on boarding was a pillow and blanket. While the pillow was fairly plush and large, the blanket was a bit small, and also very light. In general I prefer when airlines have proper duvets, though admittedly that’s a first world problem.
Boarding was fairly efficient, and the cabin filled up pretty quickly. Within about 15 minutes all but a couple of seats were taken. Virtually all of the passengers seemed to be Saudi. Seated around us was a Saudi family of six, with two parents and four young children.
As we were on the ground I browsed the entertainment selection, which was similar to the selection on the last flight.
At around 3:40AM the crew came around with hot towels.
That was followed quickly by Arabic coffee and dates. Moments later the crew even came around with refills of both.
The cabin crew on this flight seemed to be a bit harder working. The cabin supervisor (a Saudi man) actually did some work, while there were also two female Filipino flight attendants working the cabin.
At around 3:50AM the Filipino flight attendant made the welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 6hr20min, and our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet.
Moments later the door closed and we began our pushback and taxi, at which point the safety video screened.
Our taxi to the runway took a bit over 15 minutes, and at around 4:10AM we were cleared for takeoff.
Suffice to say I was tired at this point, after having flown from Casablanca to Doha to Colombo to Jeddah, with long layovers at each airport. I knew this would be the flight where I could at least get a bit of decent sleep.
As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection. I’m a bit frustrated how Saudia has a decent variety of sitcoms, though typically only one episode per show. I decided to watch an episode of Fresh Off The Boat.
We hit some turbulence on the initial climb out, so it was about 20 minutes after takeoff before the seatbelt sign was turned off. At that point the captain made a welcome aboard announcement, apologizing for the delay on the ground, which was caused by a delay in cargo being loaded. He seemed like a nice guy, and said “thank you for giving Saudia this opportunity to serve you.”
While Saudia’s 787s have wifi, I couldn’t figure out how to connect. I had purchased a 24 hour wifi pass on my previous flight, though forgot to write down the code I was given when I had signed up. Most onboard wifi systems let you use a username and password to log-in again, but not Saudia. Oh well, I didn’t need wifi anyway, so perhaps it was a net positive, since I could actually relax for a bit.
About 25 minutes after takeoff the crew distributed menus for the flight, as well as amenity kits.
The menu read as follows:
While I wanted sleep more than anything, the whole point of taking this flight was to review it, so I wanted to stay up for the snack. Interestingly the crew didn’t dim the cabin lights after takeoff, but rather kept on the mood lighting. While I appreciate mood lighting for a daytime flight or when people are supposed to stay awake, I find it unnecessary and sort of annoying for a nighttime flight.
About 40 minutes after takeoff the crew distributed a selection of juice, as well as bottled Evian water.
However, the service otherwise was really slow to get started. So after finishing an episode of Fresh Off The Boat, I watched an episode of Parks & Recreations.
I know that Saudia has a dine on demand menu, but at the same time I saw the flight attendants progressively making their way further back through the cabin, so didn’t want to be pushy and demand my snack right away, since it seemed like they were trying to serve everyone in order (very few people went to sleep immediately).
In the end I only managed to order my snack about 75 minutes after takeoff. The flight attendant also asked if I wanted to be woken for the pre-landing meal, which would be served two hours out. That seems really long before landing for a short flight.
For the snack I ordered the prawn caesar salad, which was exceptional. It was the perfect portion for a late night snack. Saudia’s food quality is top notch. Since the menu listed “hot chocolate and cookies” I went ahead and ordered that, as strange as it is to have hot chocolate with a prawn caesar salad.
The cookies themselves were fine, though when they listed cookies and hot chocolate I had higher hopes. Furthermore, I could smell fresh cookies in the oven, so it was a bit of a let-down to get these pre-made cookies.
Matthew had ordered the toasted chicken sandwich, which looked pretty good as well.
However, I’m quite jealous that he got legitimate freshly baked cookies, likely the one I smelled in the oven.
I have no clue why he got the good ones and I didn’t? Very odd…
Anyway, the food quality was excellent, though Saudia still leaves me confused. The snack service was slow to get started after takeoff, and I still don’t understand why they’re so lame on the beverage front. I understand they’re a dry airline, but it seems like they limit things way beyond that as well. You get a juice before the meal, and then aren’t even offered water with the meal.
In the end the snack was done a bit over 90 minutes into the flight, leaving me with under five hours to go to Manchester.
Before going to bed I quickly checked out the lav at the front of the cabin, which was similar to most 787 lavatories. One thing I found odd is that they only had tissues, and not actual towels. Come and think of it, the Saudia Lounge in Jeddah also exclusively had tissues, so I’m not sure whether they just use them to replace towels in Saudi Arabia? It seems strange, since drying your hands with tissues isn’t very effective (you get all kinds of tissue residue on your hands).
I managed to fall asleep almost right away, though was indeed awoken about two hours before landing, as the cabin lights were turned up for breakfast.
Since I ran out of TV shows to watch otherwise, I decided to watch Silicon Valley, which I hadn’t seen before. It was surprisingly good, and fortunately Saudia had several episodes available.
While passengers were awoken two hours out, it was another 30 minutes before trays were brought out. There was a glass of still water on the tray, though otherwise no offer of drinks.
The initial tray consisted of a small cheese plate and some fresh fruit.
There was also a roll, which I was expecting to be sweet, though it wasn’t.
Then about five minutes later the hot main course was served, which was an egg frittata.
The frittata itself was great. However, I asked for a cup of coffee, and was told coffee would be served “later.” As it turns out, “later” is 45 minutes later, once the breakfast service was complete. What the heck?!
About 30 minutes before landing, immigration and fast track cards were distributed for the UK.
After that mints were distributed.
The crew began to fully prepare the cabin 35 minutes out, meaning seats already had to be in the fully upright position, shoulder harnesses had to be put on, etc.
The views of the clouds were beautiful as we descended towards Manchester.
We hit a bit of chop on our final approach, and touched down in Manchester at 8:20AM.
From there we had a roughly 15 minute taxi to Terminal 2 at Manchester.
The traffic was quite interesting, including an Aer Lingus A320, Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore 777s, several Thomas Cook A330s (I hadn’t realized their presence in Manchester was that big), and a TUI 787.
We arrived at our gate at around 8:35AM.
Saudia 787 business class bottom line
Saudia’s new 787s are actually competitive, with proper reverse herringbone seats. Saudia’s food quality is excellent as well. So aside from the Jeddah Airport being uncompetitive and them being a dry airline, they have a mostly competitive product on this plane. Furthermore, on this flight the crew was reasonably friendly and well intentioned.
However, there’s something about the flow of service on Saudia that’s off. For example, as much as I give British Airways a hard time for their business class product, they can at least do the service on a six hour redeye efficiently and like clockwork.
Saudia’s service was unnecessarily drawn out on such a short redeye, and I don’t get what they’re thinking with drinks. This shouldn’t be rocket science — water should be offered with all meals, and the first thing many people want when they wake up is coffee. A cup of coffee 45 minutes after breakfast just makes no sense.