Review: Saudia First Suite 777 Riyadh To Los Angeles

Introduction: One “Stan” At A Time
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Review: Saudia First Suite 777 Dubai To Riyadh
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Review: Saudia First Suite 777 Riyadh To Los Angeles


Saudia 41
Riyadh (RUH) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Saturday, August 19
Depart: 1:40AM
Arrive: 11:00AM
Duration: 19hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 3L (First Class)

I boarded through door L1, where I was greeted by Ayman, the friendly cabin manager. He pointed me towards seat 3L, the window seat in the last row of the cabin on the right.


Saudia 777 first class cabin


Saudia 777 first class cabin

While walking to my seat I noticed that seat 2H was broken. On my last flight there was also a broken suite, so it sure seems like there’s some room for improvement when it comes to their cabin maintenance.


Broken Saudia 777 first class suite

Fortunately my suite was in pretty good condition, minus the mildly screwed up blinds.


Saudia 777 first class suite


Saudia 777 first class suite


Saudia 777 first class suite

Since the boarding was so slow to start (because others were going through security at the gate), I snapped a picture of the large business class cabin, which looked beautiful as well.


Saudia 777 business class cabin

I’ve reviewed Saudia’s first class hard product in great detail before, so won’t do so again this time around.

Minutes after settling in the two first class flight attendants came by my seat, including Kyle from the Philippines, and Mariana from Bosnia.

People flying from Riyadh to Jeddah on this flight were all continuing to Los Angeles, so this flight wasn’t bookable just to Jeddah. You stay on the plane in Jeddah, though there’s a crew change, and more passengers get on as well. That’s why I found it a bit funny when Kyle said “we’ll be taking care of you all the way to Jeddah.” That was like 5% of my journey that day. 😉

Once settled in I was offered my choice of lemon juice or a date smoothie, and I chose the former this time.


Saudia first class pre-departure drink

I was also offered my choice of a hot or cold towel.


Saudia first class pre-departure towel

Boarding was pretty efficient, as the plane was only about half full. In the end there were five passengers in first class, out of a total of 11 “operable” suites. Every (operable) seat ended up being taken to Los Angeles, so the other six passengers joined us in Jeddah.

The door was closed by 2:10AM, and a few minutes later we pushed back, at which point the safety video and prayer were screened.

We had a quick taxi to our departure runway, 33R, where we were airborne by 2:25AM.


View taxiing to the runway


View taking off from Riyadh

Our flight time to Jeddah was scheduled to be 75 minutes, so it was about the same length as our flight time Dubai to Riyadh.


Airshow enroute to Jeddah

Even though this flight was the beginning of an ultra longhaul flight, the amenities on this sector are just the standard regional ones. Once the seatbelt sign was turned off, Ayman and Kyle came around with two rounds of Arabic coffee and dates.


Saudia first class Arabic coffee & date

For the snack on this flight I had the choice between a “chicken sandwich” and “cheese and turkey.” I chose the latter, all of which was served on a single tray. It included tomato and mozzarella, turkey, cake, a selection of bread, etc. It was quite good.


Saudia first class snack

To drink I just had still water, and then afterwards had a cup of tea, as I didn’t need any more coffee at this point.


Saudia first class tea

The crew seemed well intentioned though really exhausted. I can’t blame them, given how late it was.

By 3:10AM the seatbelt sign was turned on, and 30 minutes later we landed in Jeddah.


Airshow enroute to Jeddah


View approaching Jeddah

After we touched down it was a short five minute taxi to our arrival stand. As we taxied in, the flight attendants announced that there would be a crew change for the flight to Los Angeles, and requested that all passengers stay in their seats. The ground stop in Jeddah was supposed to be 90 minutes.


Arriving at our stand in Jeddah

For a while the old crew stayed on, and by 4AM the new crew boarded as well, along with a bunch of ground staff to clean the plane, etc. At one point there must have been close to 60 Saudia staff on the plane, between the old crew, new crew, and ground staff.

The crew was busy as there were a lot of moving parts, though the lovely Ashley took a couple of minutes to introduce herself. She was from the Philippines, and was the flight attendant who would primarily be taking care of me on the flight to Los Angeles.


The Saudia first class team to Los Angeles

I asked if I could have a pillow and blanket, which she quickly brought me.


Saudia first class pillow & blanket

A few minutes later Ashley came around with warm towels and also offered drinks of choice. I gladly took a towel, though wasn’t thirsty. I was just really, really exhausted. The “direct” flight from Riyadh to Los Angeles looks innocent enough when you see the schedule, though between the middle of the night departure and ground stop, this is an exhausting flight to take, even in first class.


Saudia first class warm towel

Ramzi, the cabin manager, also came by to say hello, and wish me a nice flight to Los Angeles.

Then the Turkish chef, Rahmi, came by my seat. He was phenomenal, probably the best onboard chef I’ve had on any airline, between his attention to detail, enthusiasm, creativity, and work ethic.

While still on the ground he must have taken five minutes to go over the menu with me, and I couldn’t believe the degree to which he encouraged me to customize everything. For every single dish he provided some creative suggestions for how the dish could be prepared, and asked how I wanted it.

At around 4:50AM I asked Ashley how much longer it would be till departure, since it was approaching our takeoff time.

“Do you want me to make the bed sir?”
“Aren’t we leaving soon?”
“Mmmm, no sir, it may be a while.”
“Oh, is there a delay?”
“You know, sir, the US security screening takes a while.”


Saudia first class bed


Saudia first class bed

She made my bed, and also presented me with a bottle of Evian water as well as the “relax and sleep set.”


Saudia first class bott

On top of that, she also gave me the Porsche design amenity kit, pajamas, and folder containing the menu, seat pamphlet, and luggage tag (if you want to see what those look like, check out my New York to Riyadh review).


Saudia first class menu, amenity kit, and pajamas

To my surprise I got some really solid sleep, and woke up at 5:50AM, as we began our pushback. At this point 11 of the 12 first class seats were occupied, including a local family of four. There were several operational upgrades, and the only empty seat on the plane was the inoperable one in first class.


Pushing back Jeddah Airport

At that point the safety video and prayer were screened. We had a 10 minute taxi to the runway, and by 6AM were cleared for takeoff on runway 34L, right behind a Tunisair Airbus. I couldn’t believe it was already light outside — the night flew by!


Taxiing Jeddah Airport


Taking off Jeddah Airport

As you’d expect (given that this is the world’s longest 777-300ER flight), we had a very long takeoff roll, which I watched on the nose camera.


Taking off Jeddah Airport

We had a gradual climb out of Jeddah.


View after takeoff from Jeddah


View after takeoff from Jeddah


View after takeoff from Jeddah


Sunrise enroute to Los Angeles

As we climbed out the crew turned on some bright mood lighting.


Mood lighting in Saudia first class

I checked out the airshow for our 15hr25min flight to Los Angeles.


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

Once we passed through 10,000 feet I connected to the wifi. Saudia emails first class passengers free wifi codes just as boarding starts, which is a nice touch. First class passengers get 1GB of data, which is a ton (and they’d charge 200USD for it). The only issue is that Saudia has among the slowest wifi I’ve had on any airline, to the point that it’s almost unusable. That’s such a shame for an otherwise very well rounded product.


Saudia wifi pricing

About 20 minutes after takeoff the crew came through the cabin with Arabic coffee, dates, and chocolate. The chocolate is an addition over what they offer on the shorthaul flights within the Middle East.


Saudia first class Arabic coffee, date, and chocolate

Originally I couldn’t decide between continuing to sleep after takeoff and having breakfast, given that the service is on demand. In the end I decided to have breakfast after takeoff, in hopes of then sleeping for a long stretch of time.

The menu for the entire flight read as follows (as you can see, there’s breakfast, dinner, and a snack menu):

Ashley set my table, first by placing down a tablecloth, breadbasket, and silverware. Then she came out with a large bread selection (I chose a croissant and muffin). Then chef Rahmi brought out the starter I had ordered, consisting of fresh fruit and a peach yogurt parfait (I could customize what flavor I wanted). Yum yum!


Saudia first class breakfast 


Saudia first class breakfast — fruit salad and yogurt parfait

Next I had a crepe with chocolate sauce, per Rahmi’s recommendation. It was really good.


Saudia first class breakfast — crepes

Then I had made to order eggs — I ordered well done scrambled eggs, and asked for them to be served with a small salad. It tasted every bit as good as it looked.


Saudia first class breakfast — eggs cooked to order

To drink I had still water, freshly squeezed orange juice (yes, it was actually freshly squeezed), and coffee.


Saudia first class breakfast — water, juice, and coffee

What a phenomenal meal, between the excellent service from Ashley and the excellent preparation from Rahmi.

After breakfast Ashley refreshed my bed, while I visited one of the two lavatories behind the first class cabin, which are reasonably spacious.


Saudia first class lavatory

I managed to get a bit over five hours of sleep, and by the time I woke up we were over Greenland.


Waking up over Greenland

The views over Greenland never get old!


View over Greenland


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

At this point the crew had set up the bar behind first class, between the two lavatories. At the bar was bottled water, juice, fresh fruit, and packaged snacks.


Saudia first class snack bar


Saudia first class snack bar


Saudia first class snack bar

i just grabbed a bottle of water and some mixed fruit juice.


Saudia first class water & mixed fruit juice

I worked for a bit, and about an hour later decided to order a snack. When I asked Ashley about ordering something, she called chef Rahmi, who went over the selection with me. Rahmi’s ability to work with the ingredients available to him was impressive, as he proposed so many different options, ranging from salads to sandwiches to pizzas.

In the end I decided to order a pizza. Rahmi told me it would take about 20 minutes, but in the meantime he brought me canapés, consisting of cheese and chicken. Seriously, how damn impressive.


Saudia first class canapés

The pizza (really two mini pizzas) had tomatoes, olives, and mozzarella. While they weren’t traditional pizzas, they were really good.


Saudia first class pizza

Rahmi asked if I wanted anything for dessert, so I ordered some ice cream. He had chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry to choose from, and I chose strawberry. Per his suggestion, I had some melted chocolate with it as well (#healthyliving).


Saudia first class pizza

I also ordered a coffee, which was served with some (unnecessary) sweets.


Saudia first class coffee

At this point there were about seven hours left in the flight, so I decided to get some work done. I had a bunch of picture editing to catch up on, so given the slow wifi speeds, I spent several hours doing that. Ashley kept checking on me to see if I needed anything. I couldn’t believe how hardworking the crew was, as neither Ashley nor Rahmi rested the entire time I was awake.

I then decided to take a break and watch the movie “Table 19.” Saudia heavily edits their movies, so even though this movie wasn’t violent or sexual, it was edited to no end.

Before I knew it we were 2hr30min from landing, at which point the cabin lights were turned up for the dinner service.


Airshow enroute to Los Angeles


Saudia first class cabin

Service began with mixed nuts and a mango smoothie.


Saudia first class dinner — smoothie and mixed nuts

Rahmi took it upon himself to prepare canapés for the cabin, including some with caviar.


Our onboard chef


Saudia first class dinner — canapés

Around the same time my table was set, and I was offered a selection of bread from a large basket. I also ordered a mojito mocktail.


Saudia first class dinner — table setting


Saudia first class dinner — breadbasket

Course number one consisted of a flavorful roasted potato and leek soup. Yum.


Saudia first class dinner — roasted potato and leek soup

Next up was the caviar course, which was presented beautifully, and even came with a mother of pearl spoon.


Saudia first class dinner — caviar


Saudia first class dinner — caviar

Next up was the appetizer, consisting of smoked salmon and shrimp.


Saudia first class dinner — western appetizer

For the main course I ordered the lobster thermidor, which could be served with whatever side I wanted. I chose tagliatelle and vegetables. Again, yum.


Saudia first class dinner — lobster thermidor

And lastly came dessert, which was as tasty as it was beautiful.


Saudia first class dinner — pistachio and cherry cake

I can’t rave enough about the meal service on this flight — the crew and food were both unbeatable. Saudia is a dry airline, so the only potential downside is that you won’t get to enjoy a good glass of wine with your meal.

I spent the rest of the flight working and enjoying the views.


View enroute to Los Angeles

At around 11AM PT we began our descent into Los Angeles. Around that time chef Rahmi came by to ask how the service on the flight was. A few minutes later the supervisor, Ramzi, came around as well. He was a nice guy, but also hands off, as I saw him maybe a few times during the flight.

As we descended a video was screened highlighting the arrivals process at LAX.

As we approached LAX we flew over the Pacific, then turned left, and then circled back around to land on the northernmost runway.


View approaching LAX

I watched our approach on the nose camera, and at 11:25AM we touched down on runway 24R. Interestingly I heard a lot of clapping from economy as we touched down.


On final approach to LAX


Landing LAX

We had about a 15 minute taxi on arrival, as we first had to cross the parallel runway and then had to taxi to the south side of the field, before finally approaching Tom Bradley International Terminal.


Landing LAX

As we taxied in, we passed Asiana and Korean Air A380s.


Asiana A380 LAX


Korean Air A380 LAX

We pulled into our gate about 40 minutes behind schedule. While it was a great flight, I was oh-so-happy to be on the ground.

Saudia First Suite bottom line

On one hand, this was a really, really, really long journey. I’ve never consecutively spent this much time on a plane. The length of the flight as such wasn’t a huge issue, but between the middle of the night departure (with no sleep the prior day) and having to stay on the plane in Jeddah, it was an exhausting journey, even in first class.

Everything else about the journey impressed me, though. Ashley was kind, sincere, attentive, and polished. Chef Rahmi was creative, hardworking, genuinely nice, and eager to please. Together they were a winning team. Rahmi could teach the chefs I’ve had on some other airlines a lesson or two.

What an all around awesome flight. My only real complaint about the product is that the wifi is excruciatingly slow, which is a real shame.

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Comments

  1. @lucky – great review, food looked amazing! Would you take Rahmi over your chef in the Residence?
    Is it just me or does 24R look really short? especially for a 777-300.

  2. @patrick – 24R is the shortest LAX runway and the nose camera does make it look rather short but it’s just shy of 9,000 ft (8,926 ft). Even for a large 777-300, that’s plenty of room to safely land, especially at the end of a journey when it’s really light on fuel.

  3. Lovely review as always.

    However, I really hope Lucky will consider giving us a more detailed account of his ground time in Uzbekistan. I had been looking forward to reading a post of his impressions.

  4. Wow, so this would be 20 hours in economy when including the time in Jeddah. No wonder they were clapping!

  5. @Lucky: You have had an international connection from Dubai at Riyadh. I so far hesitated connecting the KSA, because they don’t issue visa and therefore, in case of an irregularity, you are stuck at the airport – which is not so pleasant, even if you have lounge access. Do you have any idea how the would deal with non-visa pax in case of irrops?

  6. @ Lucky – So, obvious question: do you prefer the Lobster Thermidor on Saudia or on Singapore Airlines book the cook?

  7. @Lucky you ordered lemonade instead of a date smoothie ? You’re being over assumptious by claiming on 70% of your reviews these days that there are operational upgrades. That’s not the case at all.

  8. @ Patrick — In fairness I barely interacted with the chef I had in the Residence, as I almost exclusively interacted with the butler. So in terms of the interactions, I have to say that Rahmi was better than the Etihad chef.

  9. @ Ric — Yeah, I suspect the 1GB plan is really intended just for the first class passengers who get it for free. Agree that the pricing makes no sense.

  10. @ Andy — It’s something I’ve wondered as well and even worried about a bit. Maybe someone else can chime in. The one decent thing at least is that there’s a new transit hotel inside one of the lounges, which has private bedrooms. So worst case scenario I wouldn’t mind spending 24 hours at the airport, if I had to.

  11. @Francisco C I’ve been on 2 hr flights to Lebanon that end in clapping…it’s just something that people here do sometimes 😛

  12. Yay, Chef Rahmi!

    I think you forgot your usual comments about how women are inferior citizens … or was it how alcohol should be banned on flights? I seem to get your sharia law propaganda pieces mixed up.

  13. “Interestingly I heard a lot of clapping from economy as we touched down.”

    No sh*t, their 20 hours of hell were finally over! hahaha 😉

  14. You poor guy being stuck on an Islamist airline for all that time. Prayers!! What a joke. Can’t get a drink or a wine and having bloody dates as an option. If flying a muslim airline and believe me would as a last resort at least Royal Brunei allow passengers to BYO on board so for a long flight a bottle of Bacardi helps and a nice red does well with dinner. Wouldn’t fly Saudi on a free ticket.

  15. @ Lucky The way you’ve written it, it sounds like you were still in bed for takeoff. Can I check whether this was so?

    The food looks great. Just a note: you have “Saudia first class pizza” as the caption underneath the ice cream.

    Thanks

  16. @ Lucky

    Just out of curiosity, which one was Ashley?

    “I also ordered a mojito mocktail”

    How was it? It is nice to see a dry airline put some effort into their drinks menu with mocktails.

  17. Now you are broken in, do Emirates’ longest. Dubai EK448 DXB10:05, AKL9:50 (15:45 hours). Then the killer return EK449 AKL20:40, DXB05:25. It’s blocked at over 17 hours but averages about 16:30.

    Great review. A chef on board prepping meals on demand to order would help me get over the alcohol ban.

  18. Same seat and layout of GA… maybe one extra row of F… how do you compare GA and the service to this flight? GA in F from LHR were highly commendable from my end but it was, my firstborn first experience

  19. Yep outstanding flight if you can handle the extreme censorship and don’t want booze. Also, outstanding as long as you hide your sexual orientation or don’t make jokes about the royal family both of which could result in you being put to death. Seriously no idea why the heck you would even consider setting foot in saudi arabia. They don’t want you there and many would rather just kill you. I notice your air hostess is not from Saudi Arabia. The last I heard Saudi women are forbidden from working as an air hostess by the airlines (heck they are forbidden to even drive). Way to support women’s rights with your choice of airline!

  20. @Bill
    Im a saudi arabian myself and i honestly hate to see women in saudi arabia being some sort of inferior citizens. But i heard that saudi arabia is considering to allow women to drive. Besides the law of women not driving is not from the religion its just a law from the country.

  21. @lucky. Thanks a lot for this really nice review, i have just got awared of this review came out on 9th Sept. I was over busy with flying schedules.

  22. @james Honestly, I am not really into socialy media follower due busy flying schedules and Family . I have got aware this review came out by my collegue so i got chance to replied to Ben Lucky. Probably I m the last person reading this what regards me. Anyhow thanks for you comment too.

  23. Chef Rahmi is one of the great person i have ever met in early years, Glad to see him on the stage through By Ben Lucky and Matthew’s page. He has so patient & extremely passion on his professional. I believe He had worked hard enough to gain culinary experience & knowledge while He had been working with celebrity and master chefs from all around the world. @massimobottura,Michealroux,Jamesmartin,jeanchristophenovelli,Claudiosadler there are many more to mentions. He has uses his wise personality as a communication key.

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