Saudia

The Next 16 First & Business Class Products I’d Like To Review

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In early 2016 I set out to review as many new first & business class products as possible, as a way of sprucing up blog content. While I figured I’d really miss the repetitive nature with which I flew many of the world’s best first class products, I’ve found reviewing new airlines to be extremely enjoyable. That goal didn’t stop in 2016, and my goal in 2017 is to try even more new airlines.

In the first couple of weeks of the year I’ve flown business class on EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, Royal Brunei, and Emirates, all of which were new products for me.

As I begin to plot out my next big trip, I figured I’d make a list with the next 16 products I really want to review, in no particular order. I’m always curious to hear what you guys think, because at the end of the day my airline selection is based on what you guys are most interested in reading about.

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The Next Country To Get A US Pre-Clearance Facility Is… Saudi Arabia?!?

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There are already quite a few airports that have US Pre-Clearance facilities. For those of you not familiar with them, it basically means that US Customs Border Protection officers are stationed at an airport outside the US, so you clear customs and immigration before boarding your US bound flight. That means you land in the US as a domestic passenger.

The intent of this is twofold. First and foremost, it’s supposedly to stop any passengers who pose a threat before they even board a US bound flight, rather than only after landing. Second of all, it’s intended to ease congestion at US airport immigration facilities.

The US is looking to expand the program, and in many cases the cost of these facilities is largely being picked up by foreign governments. For example, there’s a pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi, which is largely paid for by the UAE.

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Is Saudia’s New First Class Suite Coming To Los Angeles?

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Gulf carriers are known for their extravagant first class products. Well, at least that’s true of Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, which arguably feature among the world’s best first class products. From onboard showers to onboard bars, they have it all.

Well, unfortunately the same isn’t true of Saudia, as their current first class product is worse than their newest business class product, available on their 787s.

Their 777 first class product is in a 2-2-2 configuration…

Meanwhile their 787 business class product is in a 1-2-1 configuration, with direct aisle access from every seat.

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Video: The Most Disgusting Airplane Cabin Ever?

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I can’t say that my recent flight on Saudia was great, though it paled in comparison to the video footage of a recent Saudia flight that’s starting to go viral. In the not-even-minute long video you can see the horrible condition of the aisles, bathrooms, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plane this disgusting.

Here’s the video:

The most shocking part is that this footage was taken on a flight from Jeddah to Addis Ababa, which is a flight of only about 850 miles, or about two hours. How the cabin got that dirty on such a short flight is beyond me.

Have you ever seen a cabin so filthy?!

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Review: Saudia Business Class 787 Jeddah To Manchester

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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.

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Review: Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport

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Okay, so let me start by saying that I think you guys did a great job of managing my expectations of Jeddah Airport. Before I took this trip, a countless number of people warned me not to fly through Jeddah until the new airport is opened. So I had very low expectations going in…

Our arriving flight from Colombo arrived around 8:45PM, while our next flight was at 3:45AM. A seven hour layover on this crazy of an itinerary — what were we thinking?!?

All gates at Jeddah Airport are remote. Fortunately there was a separate bus for business class passengers, so there were only about a dozen of us on it, which was nice. I found the ride to the terminal fascinating, as we drove by a countless number of Saudia planes.

The drive to the terminal took about 10 minutes, and once there we found ourselves in a big, disorganized mess. While there were a few different queues, there wasn’t really much direction provided as to which line was for which passengers, and there also wasn’t much separation between lines, so everyone was just kind of pushing their way forward.

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Review: Saudia Business Class 777 Colombo To Jeddah

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We landed in Colombo from Doha at 10:20AM, while our connection to Jeddah was at 5:35PM. This was one of those connections that seemed good on paper, while in practice I have to wonder what we were thinking, especially since this long layover was after already having flown from Casablanca to Doha to Colombo. We were tired!

Anyway, we headed to the Araliya Lounge Colombo, which we could access using Priority Pass. Gosh, the people in that lounge were poorly behaved. Several people were yelling loudly on their phones and watching stuff on their computers and phones without headphones, and kids were screaming and running around unsupervised.

We did online check-in for our Saudia itinerary, which was an interesting experience. First we had to confirm that we weren’t Hajj passengers.

I was thrilled when I saw the seatmap for our flight. Our flight was supposed to be operated by a 777-200 with just 14 business class seats spread across two rows in a 2-3-2 configuration, while our flight now showed as being operated by a 777-300 with five rows of business class in a 2-2-2 configuration.

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Introduction: An Insane Week In The Sky

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One of the main reasons I travel is to review new airlines, which is why many of my trips are quick and have crazy routings. However, this trip ended up being insane, even by my standards, as I ended up flying over 33,000 miles in a week. I did this trip with my friend Matthew from Live and Let’s Fly, and we had a heck of a time.

The planning for this trip started when Qatar Airways published an extremely cheap business class fare between Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Casablanca, Morocco. While you could fly Qatar Airways the whole way, what intrigued me most was the ability to fly Royal Air Maroc between Doha and Casablanca for the same price, given that the two airlines codeshare on the route.

The route is operated by Royal Air Maroc’s brand new 787, so that seemed like an awesome opportunity to try them. I know booking a roundtrip between Colombo and Casablanca seems quite random (and it is), but distance never exactly stopped us from traveling anywhere. 😉

The other benefit is that a lot of airlines publish cheap fares out of Colombo, so we could easily book cheap premium cabin tickets to get back from Colombo to the US.

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Saudia Business Class, Take Two: How Was The Connecting Flight?

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As I wrote about yesterday, I was extremely underwhelmed by my Saudia flight from Colombo to Jeddah, as the service was the worst I’ve ever experienced. The service was so bad that it was almost comical. Almost.

It’s sad, because the food, hard product, and amenities were otherwise quite good, but the soft product was a disaster.

Well, early this morning we connected from Jeddah to Manchester, a flight that was operated by one of Saudia’s brand new 787s.

The hard product on this flight was significantly better than on the previous flight, even. Saudi’s 787s have reverse herringbone seats, which are super comfortable.

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A Look At Saudia’s Onboard Prayer Room

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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…

…while others put lounges.

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The Worst Service I’ve Had On A Flight. Ever.

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Man, has this trip been eye opening when it comes to my expectations of new airline products.

I was expecting the China Eastern business class product to be quite solid, more in line with the likes of Hainan than China Southern. It wasn’t.

I was expecting Royal Air Maroc to have rather cold and sloppy service. Instead we received warm and hospitable service (though the seat was still damn weird).

For the Saudia flight I just took, I was expecting it would actually be uneventful, and better than the airline is perceived to be. It wasn’t…

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Live From 38,000 Feet: Saudia’s Bizarre Onboard Security Screening Process

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I’m writing this live from my Saudia flight between Colombo and Jeddah, which has been beyond fascinating. This flight has been so bad that it makes the China Eastern flight I had the other day look like the Etihad Residence by comparison. I have never experienced service like this.

I have this impression in spite of the fact that we had a last minute equipment swap, from a 777-200 with angled business class seats, to a 777-300 with fully flat business class seats.

Shortly I’ll have a post with more about the inflight experience so far, but first I have to share something that’s sort of unrelated to the service as such, but rather involves security.

At Colombo Airport there’s a security checkpoint as you enter the airport (before you get to check-in), and then a “sterile” security checkpoint at each individual gate, before you enter the “holding pen” for a flight. That’s where you wait until the flight is ready for boarding.

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Saudia Introducing An Awesome New First Class Product

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Middle Eastern carriers are known for their extravagant first class products. Well, at least that’s true on Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, which arguably feature among the world’s best first class products. From onboard showers to onboard bars, they have it all.

Saudia is another major carrier in the region, though they aren’t known for having an especially good first class product. On their 777s (which are the backbone of their longhaul fleet), their first class product is in a 2-2-2 configuration.

I don’t like having a seatmate in business class, let alone in international first class. Add in the fact that Saudia is a dry airline, and they don’t exactly seem like the most fun airline to fly.

One of the good things about Saudia’s not-so-great first class product is that award availability is excellent. You’ll typically find at least seven first class award seats per flight, which I guess shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that the product is only marginally better than business class.

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Booked: I’m Flying Business Class On Saudia, Pakistan, and JetBlue!

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Back in early May my friend Matthew and I booked a ~$620 roundtrip business class fare Qatar Airways published between Colombo and Casablanca, which allowed booking a combination of Qatar Airways and Royal Air Maroc. While Qatar Airways unarguably has a better product, reviewing Royal Air Maroc was a lot more tempting. Then to position ourselves in Colombo, we booked China Eastern from Los Angeles to Shanghai to Colombo.

Then it came time to book the return, which was a great opportunity, given how many cheap business class fares are published out of Colombo.

The primary reason I fly is to review airlines, so obviously I wanted to try something new. Matthew and I had come up with three possible routings, and we asked you guys to vote on which you’d most like to read about:

— Kuwait Airways from Colombo to Kuwait City to London to New York
— Saudia from Colombo to Jeddah to Cairo, EgyptAir from Cairo to New York
— Kuwait Airways from Colombo to Kuwait City to Cairo, Royal Jordanian from Cairo to Amman to Chicago

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