Saudi Arabian Airlines is a member of SkyTeam. Delta publishes an earning chart for flying them, it just has not trained even its Diamond agents of its existence. I doubt awards on them are among the highest demand, or even in demand at all, though it would be nice to not spend several hours over multiple phone calls to get a trip booked. Sunday does not appear to be the best time to call but last Sunday was when I had time. The first agent took nearly an hour putting together the trip, I continually coaching her that Saudia exists, that the seats are available, that, no, I do not want to fly Delta via Atlanta for quadruple the price or Air France through Paris. Supervisors got involved, repeatedly, and through persistence I got the tickets issued, wife in business, myself in economy, which is how I like it. Too bad they were wrong, then wrong again, then wrong again. 4th time was the charm. Putting together the itineraries in parallel overwhelmed the agents, the simple request was each of the four segments we be on the same flights AND on the same day. Stranding my wife in Saudi Arabia would be both a geopolitical and a domestic issue. It worked out in the end and did have some fun bonding with the agents.
The key for someone without ExpertFlyer or KVS is FlightStats. Follow the instructions from View from the Wing: “A” (first class award), “D” (business award), “L” (economy award). FlightStats is really wacky. It can take some odd searches to get flights to show. For instance searching the JED-JEK nonstop would turn up no flights but searching DXB-JFK the prior day would show that 5:20 am JED-JFK the next day as part of the route. I have had similar issues with other airlines, most notably Gol, and do not see any pattern so rely on trial and error.
So what did we book? JFK-RUH (overnight layover)-DXB, DXB-JED (overnight layover)-JFK. 120k in business, 80k in economy.
All this to get overnight stops in Riyadh and Jeddah, with Dubai the necessary true destination of the trip to convince Saudi authorities to issue transit visas. I have yet to pen the story of my week of trips to the Saudi Consulate. We wrapped up the week with some abaya shopping.
I am fascinated with seeing Saudi Arabia and also trying to liquidate my SkyMiles account as I plan a move to United this summer, if my trips align. Hey naysayers, there is use for convoluted SkyTeam after all!
That took up most of the week. I did see, for me, the largest-ever stash of Vanilla Reloads at a CVS between Grand Central and the UN. The next morning as I returned to the consulate, it was cleaned out. I only bought two. I wonder what must happen in those occasional awkward moments when two people find themselves in a showdown over the cards. Those too late could only wipe tears on PayPal cards, destined to forever hang on the rack.
“You brought two, too many.”