Two Pesos at a SkyTeam: Saudia 777-200 Business Class

Saudia is a tough sell for many. Setting aside religious and political issues, the assumption of many travelers is that they are not allowed or not welcome to fly Saudia. It is more accurate to say most travelers are not welcome to Saudi Arabia, and getting even a transit visa is a pain.

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It is possible to transit up to 18 hours without a visa. Travelers in such situations are not allowed to leave the airport, barring special circumstances and at the whim of immigration officials, so connections must be planned with that in mind. For instance the overnight flights to Riyadh and Jeddah from New York arrive in the afternoon with time to catch onward connections, however the returns leave in the wee hours in the morning so travelers are stuck overnighting in the airports.

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Saudia has a fairly substantial network in the Middle East plus a fair presence in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Their award space is generally good in all classes, and can be checked on FlightStats (instructions). Note that FlightStats often needs to be coaxed to display specific flights; once a flight is displayed the availability is accurate. For Delta flyers, Saudia is a rare outlet for reasonable international awards since, like all partners, awards price out at the low level. As with other Delta partners, First Class is not available for award booking. Chances are this will be the agent’s first attempt to book Saudia: have all the info necessary, be clear and firm, and if necessary, hang up and try again.

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For Memorial Day weekend I booked myself in business class outbound JFK – Riyadh – Dubai in business, inbound Dubai – Jeddah – JFK plus ‘free one way’ to Minneapolis at a later date, which priced at 100,000 SkyMiles splitting the difference between 80,000 economy and 120,000 business. My wife was in business all the way. Both tickets added only $69.80 in taxes and fees. This is the first time I have willingly booked myself in business: I needed the rest since that day I flew Shanghai – Tokyo – JFK – Riyadh and then foolishly drove myself around Riyadh.

How is the Saudia experience? Quite nice. The flight attendants are mostly Filipino women with a few Arab men overseeing things.

The 777-200 business class seat is not lay-flat, it is sleeper style. Seating is 2-3-2 and the person in the middle of the 3 needs a rope ladder to get out without disturbing the aisles.

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Saudia Amenity Kit Busines

Food starts with a sweet date and Arabic coffee and rolls through large portions of tasty Arabic and Western dishes.

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Iin-flight entertainment system was broken most of the flight. In a brief uptime I saw the Mecca Pointer, French verison, leading there and to Paradise.

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There are plenty of interesting local touches yet I succumbed to the eat and sleep temptation of business class and did not fully explore until the economy return.

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  • Nice photos of the food. It does look tasty!

  • Jeff

    This may be a stupid question, but what does “Paradise” mean in the context of that photo?

  • Joey

    That’s so interesting that the crew is mostly Filipina women (I would have thought it may perhaps be similar to other middle eastern airlines and have a very diverse crew from all the destinations they go to.)
    Of the passengers in your flight, were most of them non-American since it’s such a pain to get that visa?

  • QWE

    how much were taxes?
    Fuel surcharges?

  • Embla

    Wait, what? Sorry for the dumb question, but what/where’s Paradise? o_O

  • ryan

    i’ve flown economy from jeddah – dc. HORRIBLE service, flight attendants all had attitudes, and food was downright gross!

  • thalha

    What were the taxes and fees? What’s the change fee to change dates

  • @thalha, @QWE – taxes and fees came out to $69.80 per person, one was business only, one hafl business, half economy, so class of service does not seem to matter (excluding the US domestic one-way that added a few dollars).

    For changes the standard Delta rules and fees apply, which depend on elite status, if any.

  • @Embla, @Jeff – my best guess on the Paradise was a random coincidence on the system, I think it was pointing to Paradise Newfoundland, I saw it on the English scroll, hunted around for my camera, and got it on the French before it was never to appear again.

  • AlohaDaveKennedy

    Also interested in an explanation for the Paradise pointer as I have not seen that pointer before in planes. I have only seen Mecca pointers.

  • @ryan – I did see a bit of that attitude both in business and economy. The male supervisors made a business of contributing nothing useful.

  • Jamie

    I think it would be so disturbing to be on one of those flights/airlines where the female FAs do all the work and the men stand around doing nothing, that I don’t think I could enjoy the experience. What did your wife think of it?

  • @Jamie – she was quite hilarious through the whole trip. It is unsettling in the Gulf states to see so visibly the migrant underclass from South and Southeast Asia doing all the work and locals often idle.

  • Corky

    Is that a blintz in the fifth food photo?

  • ryan

    During the middle of the flight I attempted to gain the attention of two male flight attendants by using my call button continuously on and off for at least 5 mins. They just stood around talking with one another occasionally looking my way but never acknowledging me.

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