Review of Saudia flight Istanbul Jeddah in Business

Airline Saudia
Flight SV257
Class Business
Seat 1A
Aircraft Airbus A330-300
Flight time 03:45
Take-off 03 Oct 22, 15:25
Arrival at 03 Oct 22, 19:10
SV   #14 out of 78 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 93 reviews
bldavid
By GOLD 1076
Published on 11th October 2022

Saudia has a long history that goes back to 1947. It has been known for many years as an airline that is way behind Emirates, Qatar or Etihad in customer experience. The airline now has an ambitious plan to develop both in terms of fleet, destinations and onboard services. It was named ‘the World’s Most Improved Airline of 2021’ by Skytrax. Saudi Arabia as a country is planning to invest $1 trillion in tourism in order to reach 100,000,000 visitors by 2030. I was very curious to see what it meant to fly Saudia today.

Saudia has two hubs: Riyadh (RUH) and Jeddah (JED). It flies to around 100 destinations, including 28 in Saudi Arabia, 10 in the Middle-East, 15 in Africa, 25 in Asia, 17 in Europe and 3 in the USA. Many of the short-haul and medium-haul flights are operated by wide-body aircraft such as A330s and B777s.

I booked a one-way flight from Istanbul to Jeddah to Lahore in business class. The price was much lower than for any other airline for the same route in the same class.

I arrived from Bari with Turkish Airlines in economy. I had checked in on-line for my Saudia flight but I was not sure if I had to go to the check-in desk to have my documents checked. I cleared immigration in a few minutes and went to the check-in area. Priority check-in was available for my flight.


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There were not many people waiting in line.


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The agent checked my covid vaccination certificate and my Pakistani visa. I got my boarding passes quickly. Priority passport control was available (I spent about 15 minutes in Turkey) and so was fast track at security.

The terminal looked like an upmarket mall.


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Saudia business class passengers can use the SkyTeam lounge near gates A and B at Istanbul Airport.


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You have to go upstairs.


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The entrance of the lounge.


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The view from the lounge.


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The lounge is not very large but it was not crowded.

Drinks, soups, salads, hot food and desserts are available. Nothing luxurious but adequate.



There are toilets inside the lounge and many places to charge your phone.


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Some of the flights departing this afternoon:


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I saw this sign on my way to the gate:


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Boarding started at 14.40 for a scheduled departure time of 15.25. Boarding was quite chaotic with many wheelchair passengers and their family members, economy and business class boarding from different lanes but at the same time, some women queuing spontaneously in a separate lane and everybody waiting for quite some time in the jet bridge.


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The plane for this flight was HZ-AQL, an A330-300 built 8 years ago in 2014. Looking at the cabin I estimated the age of the plane to be 18, not 8. This aircraft has six rows of seats in a 2+2+2 configuration in business class.

Seats 1AC and 1DH:


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Seats 1H and 1JL:


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Seat 2A:


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Legroom at seat 2A:


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Seat controls:


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The cabin felt old and the seat controls certainly looked like they were from the last century. Furthermore there was some confusion. A ground handling agent came onboard and asked me to move from 2A to 1F because my seat was broken but as 1F was already occupied I moved to 1A. Seat 1A:


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One of the best parts of the entire Saudia experience was the pre-departure service. A blanket, a pillow, a personal hygiene kit with a face mask and a sterilized refreshing wipe were waiting on the seat. I was offered nuts and a welcome drink immediately after boarding; the choice of drinks included date smoothie, lemon juice, orange juice or water. I had a date smoothie and it was absolutely delicious.


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A piece of date and a cup of spicy Saudi coffee was served a short time later.


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The screen at my seat:


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Push-back was exactly at 15.25 for a scheduled departure time of 15.25. An expected flight time of 3 hours and 25 minutes was announced. We had some fantastic views after take-off:


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An absolutely awesome view over Istanbul and the old Istanbul Airport:


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Orders for the meal service were taken shortly after the seatbelt signs had been turned off. There were no printed menus. “We have lamb kabsa or beef with vegetables or fish with vegetables”, said one cabin crew member. The cabin crew was very attentive and willing to work well during the entire flight.

The meal was served on a tray 45 minutes after take-off.


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The salad was simple but exceptionally fresh and tasty.


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I had lamb kabsa. It was absolutely delicious. It’s a simple meal – lamb with rice – and it shows that a meal does not need to be over-complicated to be tasty.


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I had some lemon juice which was excellent.

My overall opinion about the meal service? There was no printed menu and the whole meal was served on a tray. This is certainly not competitive but the food was extremely tasty and that is the most important when you eat.

Leaving the south coast of Turkey.


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The seat in sleeping position:


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Let’s have a look at the in-flight entertainment (photo taken shortly after take-off).


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The headphones were of good quality.


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The main categories are Islamic, Movies, TV/Shorts, Audio, Games/Apps, Kids, Live Show, SkySales, Survey, Meal Menu, WebPages, eBooks.


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Movies have several categories: New This Month (45 movies), Latest Hollywood Movies (31), Hollywood Classics (32), Action Thriller Hollywood (20), Comedy Hollywood (20), Drama Hollywood (15), Family Hollywood (12), Saudi Movies (3), Bollywood Movies (17), Far and Near East Movies (41), African Movies (4), European Movies (16), Arabic Movies (16), Harry Potter Collection (10).


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The choice of music is not huge. There are about 20 categories of Arabic and Western music and each of them has typically 4 or 5 albums. I listened to the Rolling Stones and then to Johnny Cash – there was not much in terms of contemporary music.

We reached the coast of Egypt at 17.00


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Time to have more date smoothies.


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We landed at Jeddah Airport at 18.51 and were at the gate at 18.58 for a scheduled arrival time of 19.10.

I had a connecting time of 6 hours and 30 minutes before my flight to Lahore scheduled at 01.40.

Jeddah Airport is nice, modern and was not crowded. I first followed the signs for connecting flights.


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Do you have a long connection and you don’t have a Saudi visa? There’s a hotel airside within the terminal building. A side note: you can currently book a connecting flight with Saudia without a Saudi visa if your connecting time does not exceed 12 hours.


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The central part of the terminal.


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Follow the signs to the Alfursan Lounge.


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The entrance to the lounge. This lounge, opened in 2021 is nothing less but the largest SkyTeam lounge in the world.


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I first went by accident to the First Class lounge to the left.


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I was politely showed back to the business lounge.

The business lounge is very impressive. It looks new, everything is in good condition, it has many different parts and was definitely not crowded. Overall it felt like the lobby of a brand new 5 star hotel somewhere in the Middle East.

Some photos of the different parts of the lounge:



There are a few semi-open rooms to rest. They cannot be booked in advance – first come, first served.


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Catering includes a main buffet with hot meals, a sometimes but not always staffed pizza and pasta desk, a chocolate bar, dates in self service and a non-alcoholic bar. There’s enough food. The quality is OK but nothing gastronomic.



My absolute favourite was the robot that rolled around and offered drinks. It was funny and looked more Japanese than Saudi.


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The lounge is contemporary and there are dozens of places where you can charge your phone.


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After spending about six hours in the lounge I went to the gate for my flight to Lahore. I didn’t make a review of this night flight as I was sleeping minutes after boarding, slept through almost the entire flight and I didn’t eat anything. All I remember about this flight is that this B777 has seats in business class that feel like slides– very uncomfortable for sleeping but I was exhausted.

Thank you for reading my flight report and please feel free to comment.

See more

Verdict

Saudia

7.5/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Meal/catering9.0

SkyTeam Lounge

8.8/10
Comfort9.0
Meal/catering8.0
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Services9.0

Istanbul - IST

9.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Jeddah - JED

8.8/10
Efficiency10.0
Access7.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways do not need to worry about the competition from Saudia. The hard product is miles behind the most up-to-date business class cabins in the sky. The soft product was good yet still not even close to what the best airlines offer. The price I paid was much lower than what any other airline would have cost for the same route in the same class. Overall it was a pleasant flight in a wide-body aircraft with good catering on a relatively short flight and the flight was on time.

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4 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 613359 by
    NGO85 GOLD 1871 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this FR! The SV hard product looks like it has a loooong way to go before it can meet their 2030 goals. They not only need to catch up to EK, EY, and QR, but also are being left in the dust by WY to even compete on that peninsula. The catering looks good for a flight of this length and has unique cultural elements, but agree that service protocols are not matching their competitors. It’s an interesting and rare glimpse at SV, I miss seeing their B77W at LAX, so thanks for sharing.

  • Comment 613413 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 6051 Comments

    Hi David, very nice report as always! For a 3.5h flight, this cabin is quite good, much better than regional J in EU or US; however, for a longer flight, it would not be ideal and the seats are looking quite worn. It's crazy how many different types of J cabins SV have--at least 5 types just off the top of my head, but I'm sure more than that. The catering does look very good and makes up for some of the hard product shortfalling. As you mention, SV often have very competitive pricing so it seems they are fully aware their product is not on par with other player in the region. The lounge in JED is very impressive. Thanks for this look into SV J product that I would only experience vicariously as I wouldn't fly them.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 613462 by
      bldavid GOLD AUTHOR 257 Comments

      Hi KévinDC and thank you for your detailed comment. Yes, there's a reason why SV is much cheaper than AY/EK/GF/QR/WY. I expect that SV will become more expensive when the product will get better. Also SV has additional difficulties getting more customers due to the reputation of Saudi Arabia as a country.

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