Review: Saudia First Class 777-300ER Riyadh To Dubai

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Saudia 552
Riyadh (RUH) – Dubai (DXB)
Saturday, June 10
Depart: 6:10PM
Arrive: 9:00PM
Duration: 1hr50min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2A (First Class)

I boarded through the forward door at around 5:30PM, where I was greeted by the cabin supervisor, as well as the two lovely Filipino flight attendants who would be taking care of me. I was escorted to my seat, 2A. This was exactly the same aircraft I had flown from New York to Riyadh, so I won’t post many cabin pictures this time around.


Saudia’s new first class seat


Saudia first class cabin


Saudia first class cabin

A few minutes after settling in I was offered a hot or cold towel — I selected a cold towel this time around.


Saudia first class pre-departure hot towel

I was also offered a selection of pre-departure beverages, include date, lemon, or orange juice. I chose the date juice, which was rich and tasty — I wish I had known about it on the previous flight.


Saudia first class pre-departure drink

I was also offered headphones for the short flight. I checked my email during boarding, and noticed that I had another code for free wifi from Saudia, much like on the last flight.


Saudia first class headphones

Eventually three other first class passengers boarded. All of them were Saudi, best I could tell — one was a younger guy carrying a Cartier bag, and then there was an older couple.

By 5:55PM boarding was complete, and a few minutes after that we began our pushback. At that point the safety video and prayer were screened.


Pushing back Riyadh Airport


Flynas A320 Riyadh Airport


Taxiing Riyadh Airport

As we taxied to the runway I turned on the high definition nose camera, which was cool to watch.


Nose camera while taxiing Riyadh Airport

Our taxi to the runway was quick, but then we had to hold short of the runway to wait for a couple of planes to land. At this point the captain added his welcome aboard, informed us of our flight time of 70 minutes, and also told us that the sun should set about 30-45 minutes after takeoff, and that he would announce when it was time for iftar. As I’ve explained, flying Saudia during Ramadan is interesting.


Nose camera while taxiing Riyadh Airport

By 6:15PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 33R, with a gorgeous view of the sun slowly setting in the distance.


Taking off Riyadh Airport


Taking off Riyadh Airport

Our climb out was smooth, and I enjoyed the views on departure.


View after takeoff from Riyadh


View after takeoff from Riyadh


Sun setting enroute to Dubai

The seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff, at which point I was asked if I wanted dinner, or if I would be fasting. I was the only one in the cabin (and seemingly on the plane) not observing Ramadan, so service was very attentive.

I was offered a drink to start, and ordered some sparkling water.


Saudia first class drink service

A few minutes later my table was set, with a smaller tablecloth than on the last flight.


Saudia first class table setting

Given that this was just a 70 minute flight, most of the food was served at once. First I was offered a shrimp salad, a chocolate cake for dessert, a selection of bread, and a box of dates.


Saudia first class dinner service

The shrimp salad was quite nice, as was the cake.


Saudia first class dinner service — salad and dessert

About 10 minutes later the crew came by my seat with the choice of two main courses. There was either a chicken biryani or a lamb biryani. I chose the former. It was reasonably good, though the chicken seemed to be pretty low quality.


Saudia first class dinner service — main course

I was also offered a couple of beef pastries, which the crew explained were typical iftar snacks, that would be served to the rest of the plane after sunset. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to what these are called, because I forgot.


Saudia first class dinner service

After dinner I asked for a cup of coffee to go along with my dessert and dates.


Saudia first class coffee, dessert, and dates

The sun finally set as we began our descent, at which point the same message was played over the PA as on the last flight — “ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for Iftar. May Allah accept all our good deeds.”

At this point the crew began their service throughout the rest of the cabin, even though we’d be landing soon.


Sunset enroute to Dubai

Given how short the flight was I just kept the nose camera on for the first half of the flight, and then turned on the airshow, as we were passing by Kish Island, approaching the coast of the UAE.


Airshow enroute to Dubai


Airshow enroute to Dubai

Interestingly the airshow had two lines — one taking us straight over Qatar, and one taking us around. I actually think this had little to do with the current conflict between the countries, but rather the airshow seemed to be incorrectly programmed. It showed our origin as being New York, so the green line was the direct line from New York to Dubai, while the yellow line was our actual route.


Airshow enroute to Dubai

Our flight time ended up being a bit longer than expected, as we flew inland over the UAE, and then made a 180 degree turn to come in for landing.


Airshow enroute to Dubai

We had a smooth touchdown at Dubai Airport at 8:45PM. From there it was a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate, and then another five minute wait until we could pull into our gate. That’s because apparently there was a problem with the docking system. Finally by 9PM we could deplane, just on schedule.


Korean Air A330 Dubai Airport

The walk to immigration was super long, and then I also got sent to secondary, so it was over an hour from the time I landed until I was out of the airport.

Saudia first class bottom line

For a 70 minute flight, this was pretty tough to beat. Having a fully enclosed suite on such a short flight is a treat, though on top of that the crew was friendly and service reasonably good. Observing the way Ramadan was being handled was interesting as well.

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Comments

  1. I have a stupid question that someone here can probably explain well:

    Why do international carriers use big, fancy planes for shorthaul routes, while US domestic carriers use craptastic 737s and Embraers for similar routes?

  2. I’m pretty sure the green line over Qatar was a line showing the direction of Mecca for prayer purposes.

  3. @Ben — the answer to your question lies within 3 factors: prestige, demand, and frequency.

    Airlines here in the US see value within the frequency of service. As a result, airlines tend to have multiple “banks” of departures from hubs to maximize connections and to make the time to get from point A to point B via point C as seamless as possible with as many different combinations as possible to allow the customer to choose. If, for example, Delta wanted a route between LAX and HNL, they could if they so chose put 3 777s on the route. Instead, they have 5-6 737s to ensure both that LA-originating passengers have options on when they wish to leave and so that people connecting through LA have a choice of when they’d like to connect, their aircraft type, price, etc. As a result, you see many frequencies of aircraft on a route rather than one large frequency. The same applies to smaller aircraft — why fly 2 A320s when you could fly 5 E175s, which connected to 4x the number of cities?

    Next comes demand — some routes obviously have more demand than others. United, for example, operates domestic 777s from SFO-HNL because they have the demand for it, with every flight departing (nearly) full to maximize possible revenue and the number of seats they carry. It wouldn’t be convenient for UA to fly 14 737s/day from SFO-HNL, so instead they use 6-8 777s to carry the same capacity. High-frequency shuttle routes like those in Japan and Korea sustain large aircraft because it’s the only way that an airline can carry so many people without having flights every 10 minutes or so.

    And lastly, prestige. On very important routes (like JFK-LAX), some airlines use widebody equipment simply because the hard product is worth it. If DL so wanted to, they could send over a dozen 737s on LAX-JFK, but because of the premium people are willing to pay and the need for a better product on such a route, Delta chooses to put internationally-configured large aircraft on routes due to their product. The same applies on routes to very large or important cities like London, Paris, etc., which can be seen by airlines like EY sending the A380.

    Of course, other factors impact what aircraft is put on a route. For example, there’s the downtime between flights. Rather than have a plane sit on the tarmac, airlines would rather have them fly short routes to make some money rather than cost money to sit idle. In the US, positioning flights from one airport to another can also facilitate the use of wide-body aircraft on short routes, such as the 777 that DL uses from ATL-LAX so the plane can continue to SYD.

  4. Please, please, please stop telling us the nationality of the crew on the airplane.

    Did you ask those two Filipino flight attendant about their sexual orientation? Any missing organs? Deceased parents or children.

    What a hypocrite you are, Benjamin.

  5. @WilliamC- i feel the same.
    The crew comes from planet Earth. Just like the passengers.
    I’d rather be interested in what languages do they speak.

    Thank you for the review, Ben ! First time i heard about date juice 🙂

  6. I believe that the beef pastry is called “Farmoza” (فرموزة). It originated in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. It was popularized in the Hejaz region of the Arabian Gulf and the Levant.

  7. Ben – how do you find out if it’s a boeing 777-300ER with newest seating flying your route?
    If I would like to know my type of plane flying from Jeddah to Jakarta in december consists of the new first class suites, how can I find out?

    Thanks!

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