Of the 4 Saudia flights I took on this trip,it is this one I had my eyes on the most. Why ? As Arab carriers have a tendency to use aged aircrafts and irate crew on lucrative flights to/from the Indian Subcontinent. Would this flight be one of those ? Read on to find out !
I left my family home at 1245pm for the 1300pm bus departure to Lahore’s Niazi Bus Station. At the time of writing,Lahore's first Metro,the ORANGE Line has been inaugurated and making 2.5 journes across Lahore into a 45 minute one !
The bus departed 1300 and arrived in Niazi at 1535pm.
I stepped out of the bus at 1535pm and got a rickshaw straightaway for the 1 hour journey to Lahore Airport. A car or taxi takes around 30 minutes but there wasn't one at that moment and time was of the essence !
I arrived at the side of Lahore Airport at 1635pm at the Rickshaws dedicated dropoff point.
I met Faisal from Pearl Continental Hotel who received me from my Bangkok flight the week before; there for another guest but so kindly helped me upstairs with my baggage ! Now that is what you call service excellence !
Lahore Allama Iqbal Airport
Punjab Tourism Office - the gentleman there was more than happy to let me take photos.
On entering the Terminal ( International Departures ) there was a prechecking of bags and a body search.
I arrived at checkin at 1700pm to a nice welcome from the uniformed Saudia reps ; very friendly and helpful.
Both my suitcases were weighed at the same time and individually too.
Nice to get properly branded card Boarding Passes. These will never go out of fashion for me !
As the flight was not full I got reseated to a row of 3 !
I then had a very interesting conversation with one of the Saudia staff whilst discussing that I am a blogger.
He mentioned that Skymarshalls travel on this flight,that they speak no English and if they see a photo being taken, they will offload with no reason just because they can. Add to that I was flying on the 11th September,the darkest day in the history of aviation.
He advised that Saudia doesn’t trust certain countries’ security and that the airline has it’s own enhanced security procedures. It would be very detrimental to my review if I was unable to get photos. You will therefore hopefully appreciate of what is to come !
I can't tell if this is PIA A320 AP-BLB or BLD. Sad if it is BLD.
At 1750pm, my ride to Jeddah arrived.
The inbound flight had arrived from Medina as a post Hajj 2019 flight and I looked in awe at those lucky passengers and hoped that one day I get to go there too.
Between 1835 – 1845pm many Wheelchair passengers were wheeled into the airbridge ready for boarding.
Boarding started at 1850pm and I was happy to be amongst the first to board by special request.
I made my way through the airbridge at Gate 23 and noted female crew with handheld body scanners and male crew searching bags – I had a full body and bag search. Never had that in an airbridge before !
The crew seemed pleasant enough and the Steward who welcomed me at the door was smiling.
But when I entered the cabin, an Airhostess appeared to be saying to an older Gentleman “ My friend this is your seat here “ ? I was unimpressed. Adil,the Steward at the back was the very smiley and friendly
He asked where I had travelled from to get this flight.
I advised almost from near Multan, he advised he has a friend in Multan..what a coincidence !
Adil then mentioned that Saudia fly to Multan ( a very busy route with a 777-300)
The Crew seemed really jolly and very friendly.
I advised I’d been to Pakistan to get married ( part 1 lol ! ) – they were happy. One crewmember said “you are leaving your wife to go back ?!
An Extension seatbelt was requested and brought immediately ( I badly need to lose weight ! ). No boarding video or music was playing . I felt sad that the inbound passengers likely did not see this eithe and that they did not get the authentic Saudia experience. For many from rural areas and the not so wealthy, the Hajj is the first and only time they will set foot in an aircraft. If perfection has not been achieved then it is indeed sad that their impression of flying is that all flights are like this. Think about my earlier comment about Arab flights to the Subcontinent.
Which leads me nicely to my next point.
Cabin presentation was at it's best inconsistent and at it's worst abysmal. I noted that Seats had blankets or pillows or both missing, Seatpockets were dirty. Used blankets had been chucked into an overhead locker.
Seriously ? What was going on during the 1 hour turnaround ? No wonder they don't want photos being taken on these routes.
Missing headrest covers !
Water was brought efficiently upon request and the flight was around 60% full .
I practised Tagalog by saying Mabuhay to Ms Zarina from The Philippines.
She smiled and said “ Ah you speak some Tagalog ?” !
So engaging and natural -but would all the crew be like this ?
Considering some Arab airline's crews are known for treating Indian subcontinent passenger's badly,exactly how would hey be on this service ? I did not need to wait long to find out.
During boarding, I had asked a Steward if he will ask the Inflight Manager if I may have a photo with the crew as a souvenier ? The Steward came back and said " A crewphoto will not be allowed – apparently the Inflight Manager had checked my social media ( am I some sort of celebrity in Saudia ?) and had seen that I had had a photo with the crew on the MANJED flight ? Really ? That is like saying if you have flown an airline once,you don't need to fly them again !
At no point in the flight did the Inflight Manager make an effort to come and meet with me. Add to that a filthy cabin and the stereotype of the treatment of passengers to/from the Subcontinent is alive and well. It gets better. And not in a good way. Keep reading !
Logie is all alone ! Lottie has stayed in Pakistan with her new owner,my new wife !
At 1933pm – the loading bay closed and there was an announcement for ground staff to leave the aircraft. Pushback was at 1940pm and the safety video played – the engines started up just as the English language video started and the volume of the video suddenly increased.
Clean ? Not quite up the mark.
The Due e safar video then played – after much taxying we finally lined up on the runway and took off at 1925pm.
At 2012pm earphones were brought around and I asked for and got Manchester earphones ! Ms Zarina was so happy as she knew I am flying home to Manchester !
2020pm a pre meal drinks round took place – I had the most divine orange and peach juice ever tasted ! I got extra serviettes and refreshments ! Plus extra earphones as gifts !
At 2045pm PST, a man came into the prayer room to pray – curtains were drawn after an Airhostess had laid out the prayer mat.
Probably best I don't fill this out for this flight based on cleanliness and some of the crew. More on the crew soon.
I was Whatsapping my wife as the wifi worked ! I told Ms Zarina who said " Next time I hope you fly with your wife. So nice !
There were no menucards and the meal was presented in one go as is standard on any airline.
There was a choice of Chicken with Rice or Fish with Rice.
And yes I asked for both !
The trayset came with a cute Pakistani touch of a heated Paratha and a small tub of Achar (fried chapatti with a tub of tangy pickles). There was also a spicy potatoe salad and a carrot cake plus a water cuplet. Like on the Kuala Lumpur flight, there was a plastic cutlery pack.
Plus a full sized can of Pepsi !
The sign of a good meal !
Safety Card if you wanna see it !
Even after all that delicious food,I felt peckish. I asked Ms Zarina if there was a snack and she and brought me a crew savoury snack with Pepsi – ! Awww !
The most refreshing wetwipes - although some carry the history of Saudia and some don't !
I am most surprised at no bidets in Saudia toilets as it is an essential part of the cleaning and hygiene ritual or all Muslims.
Not the cleanest but at least matches the cabin cleanlines level i.e. poor.
As I exited the washroom, a rude and angry looking Airhostess with a tray of water cups barged past me whilst saying Excuse Me. She was the 2nd crewmember to perform poorly on this flight, Surely we wouldn't get to a 3rd instance ????
I got back to my seat and wanted to try that awesome oeange and peach juice. By the way if you know which brand it is,do let me know in the comments !
Then an Airhostess walked by with a lil girl saying she didn’t know where the girl's mother was !
I was just thinking that Saudia need Urdu speaking staff and announcements – just then a prerecorded Urdu announcement played to advise Miqat is in 30 minutes time.
Miqat means, “a stated place”. Miqat is the area or locations at where pilgrims change into Ihram (white clothing for those travelling for Hajj or Umrah).
At 2200pm we heavily started to descend
We landed at 2220pm local time in Jeddah. Late night Lionair action !
On disembarking a very miserable Steward was leaning against bulkhead next to the L2 door ,1 hand in his pocket and biting the inside of his mouth and giving me dirty looks after I said “thank you “. What a charmer. Not. And what a horrible impression on leaving this flight.
The view as I left the aircraft. I helped a lady and young girl carry a handluggage down the stairs as I saw the Mum struggling. I always like to help where I can. I also guided the lady and daughter about the transit process.
Time for a 15 minute bus ride to the terminal. Upon arrival to clear transit there was Security chaos as shoes were clogging up the security lanes – this really needs to be sorted !
I was directed with much ado to gate 11 ( aaaaah ! ) to speak to somone to be escorted to the Alfursan Lounge. I arrived at the gate where the boarding for a flight to Addis Ababa was chaotic, The woman in the brown Abaya gown in the photo below ( on far right and on right of groundstaff) kept shouting at the ground staff,heading downstairs then coming back up,shouting and so on. I sat and watched this for 1 full hour and the all male staff were unable to control the situation. Passengers were pressed against each other and luckily this will no longer be allowed owing to the pandemic we are now in. The second photo shows the peace after the ADD passengers had finally gone.
I was very patient but after 1 Hour I politely insisted that someone take me to the Lounge as this had to be done as I was a guest of SAUDIA in the lounge and could only access if I was accompanied !
A gent named Hattan took me to the lounge and handed me over to a the receptionist, a man named Nouaff.
Time to go and relax in the lounge…..or is it ?
Find out more in my next review ! Thanks for reading and do like and comment.
If it was not for the amazing Ms Zarina and Mr Adil,the two crew in my section and the tasty meals,this flight would have ranked very poorly.
The unclean cabin,the inconsistency of the cabin presentation,some moody crew.
All things that were necessary but were intentionally done to create a rubbish atmosphere.
I do not believe I got unlucky with my set of 3 not so nice crewmembers and believe me they need retraining in customer service.
Would you believe that Lahore,along with Karachi are in the top 10 biggest revenue generating flights of Saudia ?
If Saudia really wants to become a Premium airline,I strongly suggest that service standards on flights to Pakistan and the Subcontinent are overhauled immediately. I am confident that what I saw here is the same as on all flights to the Subcontinent. There are other airlines flying to Jeddah and management would be wise to keep this in mind,
This flight lived up to the stereotype of poor service to/from the Subcontinent in every way.
Apart from a few nice crewmembers,good food,IFE and seating comfort I was unimpressed.
Gate 11 in Jedda hshould not be used as a Customer Service desk. When there is a flight boarding,staff do not have the time to deal with anything else. This reflects poorly on Saudia and a dedicated Customer Service desk needs to be set up if the airline wishes to be seen as caring.
I do agree, that airlines tend to send their less desirable planes to Pakistan, however, this seems to be changing a bit thanks to increased competition from the Middle East Carriers, generally Saudia sends their more densely packed 77W with the 3-4-3 on their flights to Pakistan, meanwhile they send their nicer 77W fleet with 3-3-3 layout to USA. So you actually were quite blessed to have the more premier 77W with the roomy 3-3-3 layout on this route, however, that is no excuse for the aircraft to be this poorly cleaned.
I think Chinese airlines are still the ones who tend to send their absolute pitiful fleet to Pakistan, China Sothern CZ sends a 737-800 to fly between Guangzhou CAN - ISB via Kunming KMG. Total flight time? 9-10 hours on a 737 with no IFE. Air China sends the same 4 A330-200 aircrafts between PEK - ISB - KHI - PEK as well, with aging and generally damaged seats. On the bright side CZ does send a 787 between LHE - CAN.
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