This was a part of my IST-SUB flight that involved a 4-hour transit at Jeddah airport.
Disembarking at JED
As usual at JED, all disembarking passengers are transported to the South terminal building by buses. There was a separate bus for business class passengers.
Transit procedure in JED was not as horrible as I thought. Once in the South terminal, we directly headed to the transfer counter and in just few minutes, the agent let us through to the security checkpoint upstairs because we had printed our boarding passes beforehand in Istanbul. The security checkpoint was divided between male and female, each with male and female officers respectively.
Security check cleared, then we swiftly walked along a duty-free area before finding our way to the right to Alfursan Lounge, a lounge exclusively owned by Saudia for its premium, first class, and business class passengers.
Alfursan Lounge Jeddah
The main entrance is easily spotted to the right after duty-free area. This is how the entrance looks like.
This lounge is basically one large room full of seats and dining area at the center. Even though it's written for First and Business pax, but based on my observation, there was no dedicated area for both, F & J class passengers will likely just share that same space.
We handed over our boarding passes to the dragon lady and she welcomed us in with smiles, a primary positive gesture from Saudia in its home base. She told us that there would be no announcement for Surabaya flight and also the gate number wasn't available on the screen yet, so we needed to check with her again by the time boarding was about to commence.
As shown on pictures, Saudia tends to decorate this lounge with shades of purple lights all over the place. I think it looks soothing yet sore to the eyes at the same time.
As we've just landed and were all well-fed during our previous leg, we decided to just partake in small nibbles and re-hydrate ourselves a little. This lounge offers anything from breads, pastries, salads, few hot options and rice. Avian water and juices are available in the fridge, Arabic coffee, and also tea & regular coffee from the machine.
Wi-fi was available for free. Despite of this, there was nothing much to do inside rather than eating and lounging around with no seating available for napping.
According to my wife, the lady's room was extremely disgusting, looks like its previous users did not know the concept of flushing and there were also no cleaning personnel on sight either, so that would probably add up to its dire and sad state. But when I checked on the men's room, it was much better, the urinals and the room were kept quite clean by one cleaning service agent who always cleaned up every time one has finished using it.
Since our flight would take almost 10 hours, I decided to freshen up by a shower. The lounge has one shower room located inside the men's room, but no toilet available so if you need to do the thing, you first need to get out from the shower room.
This is how the single shower cubicle looks like.
Unfortunately, the hot water was non-operational and no amenities rather than soap dispenser inside. Towel can be provided by asking the cleaning service agent, however when he showed up, he brought me three pieces of tiny face towels. I wonder if they did not prepare any decent towel there or ran out of it when I came, but it's better to bring your own bathing amenities when using the shower.
By the time I asked the front desk about my departure time, it appeared that boarding was already on-going. So, off we dashed to the chaotic boarding terminal of JED South Terminal and headed downstairs to wait for our bus that would take us to the aircraft.
On-board Saudia B747-400 Aircraft
The flight to Surabaya was operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic B747-400 chartered by Saudia, so all crew, pilot and aircraft belong to this Air Atlanta Icelandic.
This would be another chance for me to be inside this beautiful Queen of The Sky, and as I sat on 16A, it is located right inside the nose part of the aircraft.
The gorgeous Queen of The Sky when I snapped the picture after arriving at Surabaya:
There were 3 flight attendants that would be serving the empty business cabin, from Morocco, Tunisia, and Indonesia. We were the only passengers on business cabin that day, so we occupied the whole 16-seat area for about 10 hours.
The seats are of the old style that will not go fully flat when reclined, and it's one of the ancient business class seats if compared to today's sophisticated seats offered by various major airlines. Later I found out that this type of seat is exactly similar to what Air France has on their A380 business cabin, and if my prediction is accurate, they have been using it since 2009.
Some pictures of the curved cabin and the seat:
A small pillow and a blanket were already placed on each seat.
The seat control:
The monitor was very blurry and to add the pain, IFE was not available during the entire flight. One thing that's available was just the flight map which again was of the old static style.
Once we were seated, a flight attendant came to offer us some newspapers and magazines. However, they were all in Arabic and since we do not speak the language, we remorsefully declined her offer and stuck with our sad flight map for the entire journey to pass time.
And then, the in-flight service supervisor, Sofyan, who is from Tunisia, came by to hand over the hot towel to freshen up and offered us some welcome drink. There were two choices of mango smoothie and the usual date smoothie. We took both smoothies and wow… they were all so refreshing. Sofyan even said that we could have the smoothies again anytime we wanted.
Although they had in-flight Wi-Fi advertised on those paper towels, there was none in this aircraft.
Moments after they cleared our glasses, the Indonesian lady crew came by and offered us the usual welcome gesture in every Arab airlines: the Arabic coffee and dates. Unlike our previous flight from Istanbul, they only had one type of date this time and pre-plucked with toothpicks. No small saucers being offered either to place the dates on the seat. This is how it looks.
After this, this same lady gave us each a menu book. This time, it came in a decent book, unlike the previous one where it's just a piece of menu card. The menu book is printed on a glossy grayish blue cover paper and looks luxurious. Dinner and breakfast were offered on this flight with 3 choices of main course each. The crew would come back after reaching cruising altitude to take our orders.
It's a strange thing that no one was offering us any amenity kit. We assumed that since we'll fly for almost 10 hours on a red-eye flight, amenity kit would be given. When I stopped one crew to ask, he just said that he would check on it if they loaded it on board, but he never returned. I did send some emails to Saudia to ask about this few days after the flight, it's said that the higher management has acknowledged the matter and will respond to me soon, but none of it materialized until now.
Once we're reaching cruising altitude, it's time to dine in the sky. I chose the Western appetizer and my wife chose the Arabic one.
First, the crew laid out a white linen on our tables and brought out our trays. It had fresh salad, salt & pepper shakers, olive oil, butter, and the default stilled water. And then, he put a plate of appetizer on it.
This was my appetizer of smoked salmon, pan fried artichoke and grilled scallop. Overall, the taste was rather unappetizing, same with the appearance.
Next, I opted to have the cream of seafood soup. It took so long for the crew to bring the soup out, that they needed almost half an hour after the appetizer to prepare it. By the time it came, both of us were already exhausted and wanted to just go straight to sleep. However, I loved the presentation and it's delicious as well.
My wife and I decided that we would not partake in the main course and would rather have it during breakfast time. The crew gladly obliged with the request and left us to rest.
Despite of the "ancient" look, the seat was surprisingly very comfortable to sleep on. Even though it's not fully flat, but I managed to get a solid 6-hour sleep and woken up feeling refreshed. The blanket was rather thin and smallish though.
Some time after woken up, I walked to the galley and told the crew that we'd like to have breakfast in few minutes. Both of us opted to have the main course for dinner which we skipped before as breakfast, complete with the cheese course and fresh fruits, the dish was called Fish Sayadia.
Few minutes later, the crew started to set up our tables and brought out our breakfast.
Some of the rice got dry due to overheat, but overall, this breakfast was one of the most fulfilling we ever had on an airplane. The taste was delicious for our Asian taste buds with nice presentation and good quantity.
Unfortunately, when I asked to have the ice cream, the crew regretfully told that it has melted and no possibility to be served properly for us.
There were two lavatories for business class which were kept clean the entire time. Apparently, Saudia uses Saudi Arabia's local sanitary products called Patic.
Months before this flight, I have contacted Saudia that I'd like to surprise my wife with a special honeymoon cake request since this trip is actually our second honeymoon. Saudia does not provide email contact to land this special request, so I tried to call local Saudia office in Indonesia few times, and eventually I ended up making a direct call to Saudia head office in Jeddah. They promised that they would entertain this request and assured me that the cake will be available on board.
And apparently they did deliver what's been promised. Some 2 hours before landing, the three crew serving business class suddenly brought out a small cake beautifully set on a plate while singing "Happy Birthday"! Yes, you're right, a Happy Birthday song that almost made me burst with laugh. My wife also got perplexed that the crew suddenly brought her a cake and wished her a happy birthday. Looks like the surprise really works for her but in a very wrong direction.
All in all, I really appreciate the effort from Saudia and thanked them for realizing this small gesture to please their customers and delivers high level of service. One tiny miscommunication certainly won't turn our heads against Saudia for future flights.
The cute "Honeymoon-turned Happy Birthday" cake:
Despite of some shortcomings in the hardware, we still look forward to another flight with Saudia in the future, given its cheaper price and quality of the food and crew.