Well Hallo my friends !
Firstly let me say hi and as you may notice, I have a new author name and logo. Bye bye TheWindowSeat and say hallo to livingthejetlife !
This report is for my first ever flight on Saudia on 31st August 2019 from Manchester to Jeddah enroute to Kuala Lumpur for my 40th birthday !
This and the next few reports from 2019 are all being done now as I have had a lot going on in my personal life. But I am back and ready to take you sky high with my visually appealing blogs. I promise not to dissappoint !
Saudia was founded in September 1945 in Riyadh. The airline's number 1 market are global Pilgrimage visitors visiting the Holy sites for Hajj and Umrah.
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) the national carrier in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia celebrates its diamond jubilee in 2021, as it was 75 years since the company was established, which has become one of the largest international airline companies and a distinctive brand in the world.
Airports where I have seen Saudia aircraft are Manchester,London Heathrow,Jeddah,Lahore,Casablanca,Istanbul and Amsterdam (freighter 74F).
The airline reverted to its abbreviated English brand name "Saudia" on 29th May 2012 (originally used from 1972 to 1996) .
Saudi Arabian Airlines (1997-2012) was changed to celebrate the company's entry into the SkyTeam Alliance on that day.
In 2016, Saudia launched AlLBAIRAQ flights. Provided by Saudia and affiliated with Saudia Private Aviation, Saudia ALBAYRAQ is a new business air bridge between Jeddah and Riyadh, an exclusive scheduled service for VIPs with 6 daily flights offering a unique travel experience through private terminals and lounges and on board the Airbus A319 with 50 VIP seats in a one-class configuration. The AlBayraq livery is basically the Saudia livery with some enhancements .
In 2017, Saudia openly launched an onboard dress code. “Saudia is requesting from their guests to abide by a dress code whereby they are clothed in a manner that is in line with public taste or not offensive to other passengers".
Whilst seemingly controversial to some at the time, other airlines have began following suit ( for want of a better phrase" ! )
In 2019, Saudia launched a set of collectable edition Economy Class amenity kits under the brand “Fly Through Our Heritage.”
The new comfort kits provide a mosaic of colors and images that represent the features and cultural elements of five regions of Saudi Arabia: Southern region (Al-Qatt Al-Asiri decorative art), Eastern region (Al-Ahsa pattern decorative art), Western region (Hejazi rowshan wooden windows), Central region (Najdi doors with unique pattern and decorative art), and Northern region (Sadou fabric craft).
Whilst at Stockport Bus Station, I saw the inbound SV123 fly directly over me on finals into MAN ! Not quick enough to get a photo so here is a photo of my TRIPP suitcases at the bus station instead !
I arrived in MAN at 1310pm, after a short bus ride from Stockport. I made my way to Manchester Airport Terminal 2.
Nice visual for Arto Water !
The terminal was heaving and extremely busy. I would later on find out this was due to baggage belts breaking down which means bags cannot be sent down the baggage belts to be loaded into canister for loading onto the aircraft.
I Joined checkin and by 1350pm checkin was complete. I got told the next flight is literally empty and that I have 3 seats to myself ! And that the next seat on the MANJED flight was also free !
Bye bye suitcases and see you in Kuala Lumpur………………..
My Boarding Passes photographed the wrong way around but hey !
Kathryn the SV MAN Airport Manager was on hand to efficiently help the staff of the handling agent Swissport.
Sheryl from Swissport provided a very efficient and friendly checkin however do see my next review as to why I might have been a teensy bit annoyed ! .
After checkin was completed, I headed upstairs to security.
Security was horrendous – I had Fastlane but still waited around 15 minutes to be allowed through. I felt for those in the long snaking queues.
Singapore Airlines Silverkris magazines….oh the memories of the year before when I flew to Houston !
The Lounge was not very busy . Justine advised that for the evening Oman Air flight,the lounge gets a halal menu . There is a small non Halal sign on certain dishes during the day. I recommended this to be enlarged.
And this advice was very timely as I saw a Muslim couple going for the pasta ( with chorizo ). I felt as a duty of care to go and tell them this meal is not Halal and they were very grateful for me telling them this.
As my phone was on charge I went to get a juice. The glass I picked up was filthy. I politely alerted one of the staff ; he did not look too happy at being told this. Mind you he looked no different when I walked in as his face was bright red. Charming.
After a short stay, where I finished charging my phone and caught up on some work,I left the lounge.
I didn’t want to walk to the new pier but then I had to upon seeing my flight was departing from gate A12 !
Another water ad !
Just like at Schiphol, there are now timeline guides at Manchester Airport advising on the walking distance
You don't mind a slight walk if you get nice views ……
like these ! There is my ride to Jeddah !
Annnnnnnnnd here is my first ever visit into the new pier at Manchester Airport Terminal 2 !
Eventually I hope the whole of MAN will be brought up to date like this.
Hallo to high standards and not before time.
Saudia returned to Manchester in 2014, having last operated into Manchester in 2009 .
Those short lived but very popular flights were operated by twice weekly 747-400s via Geneva. The new service from 2014 on the 777 then 787 Dreamliner,is ideal for those travelling to perform their religious pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah. It also supports the many Saudi students who choose the North of England to further their studies in one of the region's many educational establishments.
Just as I was approaching gate A12….
An announcement was made for me and I walked over to the gate. I made myself known to the lovely Supervisor Nawzi and she was so happy for my first flight on Saudia and told me the food is great !
I had just enough time to get this shot of my ride to Jeddah before being told I would be preboarded ! OMG !! What a wonderful birthday treat !
HZ-ARC,my ride to Jeddah,was 3.5 years old at the time of flying and her previous flight had been to Guangzhou.
This is the same 787 from 2017 which was performing flight SV123 from Jeddah to Manchester,which while on approach to Manchester,the crew reported problems with the flaps and entered a hold for about 4 hours.
Time to board SV124 ! At 1530pm Ms Nawzi personally escorted me to the aircraft to introduce me to the Inflight Manager.
I must really appreciate these transparent airbridges with large windows…at last MAN is up to date with the world !
When I boarded,the crew were just about ready for "Showtime" aka boarding !
Wow…what a chique looking cabin with excellent cabin presentation to match !
A unique feature of Saudia is the onboard Prayer Room - so let's take a quick look before everyone else starts boarding..apologies for slight blurriness as I wanted to get the shots and get settled in !
Time to stow away my hand luggage - nice Prayer mats inside the overhead locker.
Ms Anjelica from the Philippines welcomed me onboard with a genuine smile and took my jacket to hang up. I liked that my jacket was proactively taken and hung up – a small but impactful touch.
In the cabin, a beautiful boarding video played with upbeat music and showed all destinations of Saudia as per August 2019.
Enjoy for yourself !! I promise you will be addicted !!! I even have the video downloaded ot my mobile phone to keep my wanderlust alive !
Cuteness alert ! I am not alone on this trip ! Logie and Lottie are with me too ! They are gifts I won from Loganair and the airline wanted to see them enjoying this trip !!
Just before boarding got into full swing, the lovely Ms Rajae, the Economy Supervisor who hails from Morrocco,chatted to me about the time she stayed in Lahore enjoyed Pakistani food ! Similarly I told her of my lovely trip to Morrocco the year before. An Extension seatbelt was brought with a smile by Ms Anjelica. The Inflight Inspector came to my seat and welcomed me onboard – He gave me Mabrook( Congratulations) but for what ?! Keep reading this series of reports !
Wrapped blanket and pillow at every seat. I love the design detail on the pillowcase as well as the Royal Blue blanket with Golden edged stitching. Nice to see Saudia's corporate brand and colours so strong and present.
Passenger Service Unit
My first time seeing Arabic graffiti ! How awful that soneone took the time to do this on a leather seat. Definately someone contending for Instagram's @passengershaming page
Missed a bit during cleaning !
As it wasn’t a busy flight, the seat next to me had been blocked for my extra comfort – I gave a blanket to a passing Airhostess who needed one for a passenger and she said thank you with a lovely smile
2 Airhostesses brought a Prayer Mat for a young man wanting to pray. Boarding continued at a swift pace and passengers were seated efficiently whilst I noticed some people getting up after being seated, namely females. Inside the Prayer room area, people were standing around randomly. I noted a lot of reseating going on by female passengers who did not want to sit next to men. I felt for the crew as it was constant. Saudia maybe need some "lady friendly" rows like fellow Saudi airline flyadeal. I guess it is a cultural thing but my God is it time consuming for the crew. We were fully boarded by 1600pm.
I saw kids packs being distributed to children – a green rucksack with goodies ! I didn’t feel too good so asked for some water which was brought with a smile by Ms Anjelica. She said if there is anything else to let her know.
There was a Welcome announcement at 1625pm with a special mention for Alfursan Elite members.
Spearmint scented Towels were distributed 1623pm.
I asked for another towel ( for a picture as I had forgotten to take a photo ) and another was swiftly brought without making me feel like a nuisance. Super Service !
A smiling Senior crewmember walked by and patiently waited for a passenger to pass by just as the safety video began.
The Safety video began at 1626pm in Arabic then English.
No we haven't taken off yet !
The Pre Travel; Arabic Prayer video ( Dua E Safar) began playing throughout the cabin at 1633pm.
Pushback was at 1638pm and engines started up at 1644pm. I asked a Senior crew member if I may have both meal options and was told yes. The crew seemed really happy when talking to passengers and each other.
Menus and destination branded earphones were handed out at 1635pm and the Captain advised a departure slot time in 25mins.
Taxying past Manchester Airport's Terminal 3 - normally the terminal is filled with flybe aircraft.
Just 6 months later flybe would go bust ending 40 years of Regional Connectivity in the UK.
There are talks to resurrect flybe in 2021 however.
At 1700pm we turned onto Runway 1 and my first ever Dreamliner flight from Manchester began ! A beautiful take off on a nice sunny day saw us take off from Manchester's Runway 1 and bank left which is most unusual as aircraft usually bank right and fly over my neighbourhood when flying to the East.
20 minutes after take off, cute individual mini water bottles were handed out to all passengers.
There was a rush for the Prayer Room not logn after take off. One guy and his entire family occupied the room. It is perfectly acceptable to pray at one's seat too.
The IFE magazines were not recent and upon asking for a new one, a crewmember was unsure when a new one would be published ? The Ahlan Wasahlan inflight magazine was up to date and had a beautiful fleet page and route maps.
A young guy asked if he can sit next to me but I advised I have two seats.
Ms Anjelica came by to check if I’m ok and asked if I love flying, on me asking about IFE etc. A really sweet and kind crewmember.
There were Kids running in and out of the prayer room ; for everyone’s reference,no one is allowed to pass in front of a praying person.
The WIFI which did not work
I was very hungry so requested and got a Snack and mango juice delivered to me on a tray.
Serviettes are served with everything ; the attention attention to detail impeccable.
Love this trayliner with multilingual ways to say "Bon Appetite"
Arabic Coffee being served before the main meal service .
Saudia have named their Economy Class dining concept as Bistro. Great concept on any ultra long haul flight but it just did not work on this service.
Meals being served 90 mins after take off on this close to 6 hour service is really unacceptable, as you cannot maximise your rest time.
Plus the cabin lights stayed on for the large part of the flight.
This really is a downside for those with connections,travelling for Pilgrimage whereby you need to be alert and the not so great experience that awaits at Jeddah Airport.
Service began with myself and I had politely asked for my meal as I was really hungry by this time.
The meal options are shown on the menucard shown earlier in this review,but just to remind you there were 3 options ; Chicken, Beef or Ravioli. The Jet loves to eat and I chose both the Chicken option with the supreme Pumpkin Mash and the Ravioli ! Firstly a table cloth is placed on your traytable And then your entire meal (minus the dessert) arrives 1 item at a time until you have what resembles a trayset without a tray. I have placed the items as they would look on a trayset rather than looking jumbled up.
Excellent taste and very filling meal but the presentation takes forever as each meal item is individually handed to you. Multiply that by almost 300 passengers and you get a hugely elaborate but unnecessary service flow.
I am told the Bistro Service is to make way for the return of the tray and this can not come soon enough in my opinion. I agree to this as the table cover appears bigger but space to put items on is very small and some items may fall behind the traytable as the illusion of the tablecloth makes it seem the traytable is much bigger.
The Dining Experience is very Premium but needs to be tweaked. And soon.
I had to request more of the Starter as it was deeelish !
Tip your blanket wrapper ? Keep it to collect all trash through the flight and then hand it to the crew at the end of the flight !
It would be a lot more efficient to have a trayliner made of the material of the tablecloth or such a coloured trayliner and have all items on the tray, meaning only the starter and main course need to be placed on the tray. This would save valuable time during meal service.
After the meal , Ms Rajae said "I will bring you ice cream" – she asked me how the meal was and I was delighted ! So much so that I had ordered the Salmon starter twice.
The gorgeous Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert and a not so clean seatback :(
( it wasn't me ! )
A quick visit to the Washroom. 1945 - The Origin is the signature brand scent of Saudia and smells divine !
I went for a little walk to the back galley to stretch my legs and meet the lovely crew. Mr Thamer was the Inflight Manager and had a very good work ethic and this reflected in his entire team.
Airhostess Ms Amreen from India said my future wife was pretty when I showed photos and she said I had a heart of gold when she heard me speak about my fiancé. She also said we make a nice couple which I was deeply touched by.
I Spoke to one of the crew who told me what I already knew – that Saudi women are kept women unlike what the media shows where they have no life of their own !
Are we there yet ?!
Finally, 4hrs 45 mins after take off lights were dimmed – service really took forever, on this 6 hour flight.
45 mins to landing final drinks and a light snack were served. Passengers were still praying in the Prayer Room. Take your pick from Orange,Guava,Apple or Mango !
There was a Funny prelanding video / announcement asking pax to open window shades (on a 787 ?! )
After a nice approach, we landed 2255pm UK time / 0055pm Saudi time.
Remote gate disembarkation allows lovely views like these !
After a 15 minute ( but feels like an eternity) bus ride to the terminal. During my 15 minute journey to the Terminal, I saw a saw Bulgarian 737 BusinessJet but looked like it had an Alitalia style livery ? Anyone know the airline ?
I arrived to begin my transit to Kuala Lumpur
I went up to go into the Transit Lounge thinking I will have a luxurious experience. A Security guy was really rude and asked me if I had a problem when I asked if I need to remove my shoes, in the absence of no sign stating so. Rude Dude.
At the Saudia Information Counter, the guy was unhelpful when I was asking why my flight for Kuala Lumpur was not showing but others are showing thereafter. He said gate 10 or 100 ?? Very helpful. Not.
The Departure "lounge" was hellish – difficult to find a seat and a nightmare to navigate due to the swelling numbers of passengers. Thank God for the new Airport which will hopefully make transiting much more pleasurable.
I met a Malaysian guy for Kuala Lumpur in national dress – We exchanged terima kasih / sama sama ( Thanks/You are welcome ! ) after he told me which gate the KL flight will likely leave from.
Several Urdu language announcements were made for various SV flights flying to Europe – very odd and also the lady making the announcement kept pausing on every announcement for some reason. Weird as these are prerecorded.
No transit visa is needed if the transit is less than 12 hours, but you will not be able to leave airport.
Thank You for reading my review and do like and comment ! See you onboard my flight to Kuala Lumpur !
An absolutely divine flying experience !
Saudia have all the hallmarks of an airline that is serious about becoming a global player .
The seats,meals,IFE and above all amazing cabin crew all helped make this a superb first flight.
Sure there are tweaks needed like cabin cleanliness and to finetune the Bistro meal concept which for a flight of this length just did not work.
The new Jeddah Airport will be a major compliment to Saudia's inflight service as the ground experience will be hugely improved.