During my two-week visit to Jeddah to meet my dad, I had a space of time and an urge to fly. Coincidentally, during this time, there was a discounted business class offer from Saudia so without further ado, I decided to take the opportunity and discover what Saudia had to offer in their medium haul business class cabin. This offer stated that you could fly discounted rates on J class to any of their sub-continental destinations. After some quick research on the website, I came to find out that the cheapest option was to Karachi in Pakistan so I booked it at $850 return packed my bags and within a few days, began my short but sweet business class experience.
Keep in mind, one of the greatest factors for this journey included the fact that a Boeing 777-200ER was the equipment used on the Karachi sector. The first leg was flown by an old A330-300 but I won’t be discussing that here because it represents Saudia’s outdated product, so instead I will be reviewing my second flight.
Airport Experience: Karachi
I reached the airport 3 hours prior to departure. Karachi Airport has retro-style boards which you don’t see a whole lot often these days!
The check-in hall at the airport is huge and very airy which I like a lot, however the age of the terminal cannot be hidden. For convenience, business class passengers and SkyTeam members enjoy a priority kiosk.
Despite the security officer warning me not to take pictures, I managed to get one shot of the lounges at Karachi. All international airlines use the Civil Aviation Authority lounge at Karachi – except PIA who have their own lounge. The lounge attendant glanced at my boarding pass, before leading me into the lounge.
There were both hot and cold foods but the sandwiches seemed rather stale and the hot foods – which included Pakistani Cuisine – were very average as compared to what you’d get outside in the city. Despite the wide-ranging selection, I wasn’t that hungry, settling instead for a drink and crisps.
The lounge had Wi-Fi which had a moderate speed and some computers. The funny thing is that the computers had Windows XP which you also don’t see quite as much in 2017!
Overall, even though the lounge was rudimentary, a range of cuisine was available and the added luxury of Wi-Fi was a great convenience.
About 25 minutes prior to boarding, I headed for the observation area. There wasn’t much action but my Saudia 777-200ER headed to Jeddah came into view soon enough.
As well as many passengers, this flight would be carrying mangoes to Saudi Arabia – a major export of Pakistan.
I then headed to my gate, and began the boarding process.
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
Age: 16.7 years
Route: Karachi (Pakistan) to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (3.45 hours)
Interestingly, HZ-AKV is one of Saudia’s newer 777-200s and it’s a survivor because most of Saudia’s 777s are being stored and replaced by their newer competition from Airbus; the A330 Regional variant.
I boarded from Door L2 and the F/A greeted me with a warm “Ahlan Washalan”, meaning ‘welcome’ in Arabic.
I had allocated myself seat 2A for this flight. The seats were the classic shell type much like what you’d find on carriers such as Air India or Pakistan International. They’re lie flat which is quite nice considering it’s a very short flight, and is a major positive when considering when comparing Saudia with their competition on these medium-haul sectors.
The seat configuration in Saudi J class is 2-2-2, unfortunately meaning direct aisle access for all passengers is not available. For a short flight, however, this is just a minor point. (Seat controls) below
Saudia has a seat pitch/legroom of 58’’ so there’s lots of space to stretch your legs. Hot towels were offered to the guests before pushback.
Dates and Traditional Arabian coffee was also distributed.
Saudia is a strictly dry airline so the pre-departure drink included Orange Juice, Lime juice and apple juice. I went for the Orange Juice.
Noise cancelling Headphones were then distributed, which looked substantial and of good quality, but I used my Bose headsets instead.
Entertainment and screen remote:
Shortly afterwards, the menu orders were taken. Here were the options business class passengers had:
Unfortunately, everyone had the same dessert which I’m not going to complain about, considering the fact that you get a chicken Caesar salad and a banana on US Transcontinental LAX-JFK/ SFO-JFK products. As we taxied, I could spot a variety of traffic including a PIA 777-200LR arriving from Toronto(YYZ) in the distance. The extremely bland safety video aired and soon we had a short take-off from runway 24R.
30 minutes into the flight, meal services began.
I love how the table cloth has Saudia engraved on top of it. Little touches such as this really differentiate the service between a lower and higher class of travel on such a short flight. Service began by bread rolls which were freshly baked and warm.
Followed by appetizer! I opted for the Arabic mezze which, although the presentation was polished, was lacklustre compared to the Arabic Mezze you’d get on airlines such as Emirates.
And then came the main course which was splendid. Even though it might not look as appetizing, it was full of flavour and spices.
Lastly, the dessert was chocolate mousse cake which was excellent as well. It had the perfect amount of cream and was presented very well.
Overall, Saudia impressed me with their offerings on this medium haul journey.
After the meal service was done, the cabin quieted down a little bit. Window shades were dimmed and the most people caught some sleep. In case you wanted some sleep, the seats had a small privacy partition which was a nice touch. The cabin was darkened, to help people enjoy a couple of hours of rest.
During the time in which the cabin was dimmed, I decided to visit the lavatory which was quite plain and offered no real business class touches.
We then hit a light bit of chop but it calmed down as we started our descent into Jeddah following a sharp right, with final approach into Jeddah.
We touched down 10 minutes ahead of schedule, which was great for passengers making connections onto Saudia’s network in Europe and North America. After a long taxi, we parked next to a company 744 leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic. While exiting, I decided to take my chances and asked the F/A for cockpit access; to my surprise, she said the captain has left but you can still take a picture.
After a quick chat with the skipper, I bid farewell and headed out of Kilo Victor from door L1, concluding what was truly a fantastic journey and experience.
If I said the entire flight was perfect, it would be a lie. It had its flaws but the crew were truly trying to work with their heart, not robotic like most are; the food was also quite nice and well presented. The plane was quite aged but in terms of Business class, it was well maintained. On the bottom line, this flight was a positive experience and – with a couple of refinements – Saudia has a lot of potential.
Ground Services Experience: 6/10
Dining Onboard: 8/10
Friendliness of the Crew: 8.5/10
Comfort of the Seats: 7.5/10
Thanks for reading my trip report. Any feedback would be appreciated.
This month’s guest review is by Hassan (@MhSpotter). If you wish to apply for next month’s featured guest review, email email@example.com or contact any of our author’s via their Instagram pages.
Featured photo: Mior Faizal Affandy (Planespotters.net)
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