Hey guys and welcome to another Flight Report!
This is the first FR of my first trip of 2024 and will cover my first time in Africa. This is another one of those completely unplanned trips. I was actually looking at a trip to Cyprus for winter 2023/2024 however when I saw Saudia selling tickets to Dar-es-Salaam from Europe for only £165, there was no way I was gonna say no to that. The base fare also includes 23kg checked luggage, which made the deal even better.
This itinerary is an open jaw return flying Milan to Dar via Jeddah on the outbound and returning back to London (also via Jeddah). While this trip is only a week long, I managed to pack in an additional 3 domestic flights on different airlines so there'll be an FR on each of those in the coming months.
I actually booked this flight 6 months in advance, when this flight was still filed as a 787 in the schedule. This obviously changed to an A321 along with around 20 (yes 20!) schedule changes in the months leading up to the flight. I (quite literally) received a weekly email from Saudia telling me that the departure time of my flights have been moved either forward by 5 minutes, back by 5 minutes or the total flight time have been either increased or decreased. It never impacted my plans as the net change was under 30 minutes but it was quite funny (or annoying) getting an email each time there's a 5 minute change in flight time.
I aim to offset all of my CO2 emission from flights. All emissions are calculated using the ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator and I will be funding projects approved by The Gold Standard. The CO2 output for this flight is:
MXP → JED: 200kg
Total for 2024 (so far): 200kg
Here's the video version of this FR, it's got pretty much the same thing content wise.
This is my 4th time transiting here. I honestly know this airport better than my local airports in London, which is pretty crazy.
Anyway, here's the arrivals area on a lower floor.
With departures on the floor above.
Despite being here so many times, I actually never bothered walking to the end of the check-in area. So here it is, it's used pretty much exclusively by Neos.
Here's the main check-in area.
You also get an amazing view of the apron from here with a Ryanair (9H-QDS) heading to Madrid (MAD), this is actually the plane that got me here from Stanstead.
There's also a food court upstairs. There's a few restaurants and is quite busy (as usual).
View of the drop-off area with the Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport on the other side.
Another photo of the apron with a Neos 787-9 (EI-NUA) heading to New York (JFK) and an Air Canada A330-300 (C-GEGC) heading to Montreal (YUL).
An La Compagnie A321neo (F-HBUZ) can also be seen preparing for departure to Newark (EWR).
And here are the check-in desks for Saudia. Check-in only opens 3 hours before departure although some passengers started lining up an hour before.
Security took around 5 minutes and we are airside.
Obviously, being Milan and Italy, there's a ton of shops including a lot of designer brands here.
It's not the most modern airport in design but it's clean and has everything you'll need.
Heading to the gates.
Another photo of the apron with a Kuwait A320neo that's just arrived from Kuwait (KWI)
The seats here. There's a ton of departures (including a few heavies) combined with the limited space makes the place very crowded.
Oh look! Here's our plane arriving from Jeddah (JED)!
This is my first time seeing Saudia's new livery in person so I was quite annoyed that I wasn't able to get a proper photo of her… until I remembered: the walkway I passed through earlier! Surely that'll give me a nice view.
And here she is. It's still not perfect but it's much better than the view from the gate (with the backlight from the sun).
Some info about our plane:
Type: Airbus A321neo
First flight: 11 December 2023
Age: 1 month
A brand new A321neo that entered service with Saudia on 30 December, 12 days before this flight. Interestingly, she's still the 2nd youngest aircraft I've been on, narrowly beaten by a 10 day old Aegean A321neo back in September 2022.
Flight time today will be around 4 hours 40 minutes and here's our route:
The seats on this brand new plane.
It comes with a full 4k IFE (which we'll look into later). I have to be honest, when I first saw the screen, I just imagined it being a huge fingerprint magnet (like tablets) but it's honestly not too bad (although you will get smudges).
The legroom - average.
As usual, on each seat is a pillow…
… and a blanket.
As you'd expect, the seats also recline.
Interestingly, despite it being a brand new IFE system. It still comes with a double headphone jack, although it's fully compatible with single-jack headphones (which are the ones given onboard). Another thing I noticed was that the voltage on the USB jacks is amazing on this new IFE. It charged up my phone at about the same pace as a power outlet (~2-3 hours), which is crazy considering most USB ports on planes takes at least 6 hours.
Also, this is the first time I've seen a USB-C port on a plane, pretty nice.
First views out of the window.
A very modern-looking overhead panel. This is actually my first time seeing this style on the A321neo so it's likely a very recent design.
Before departure, headphones are handed out…
… along with a wet wipe- something that you never see in economy these days, although the crew never bothered to collect it so I had no idea what to do with it after (it was soaking wet as well).
Pushback on time.
After a very long taxi (fairly common for Milan). We're off to Saudi Arabia!
Amazing views of the alps during climb.
As usual for Saudia, a travel prayer is played. However, this was only done after takeoff (it usually comes after the safety video).
Shortly after takeoff, the crew came around with a tiny bottle of water.
Sadly not a whole lot to see outside but we'll have a look at the brand new IFE instead.
Content wise, it's amazing. It's so good, in fact, that the 'all movies' section crashed the first time I tried to open it - even a brand new system like this can't handle it haha. It probably why there's so many categories. I also love the little tiny screen on the bottom right, it shows you the flight progress even while you're watching a movie or something.
A fully interactive map is also available (as expected).
And now, lets have a look at the contents of the seatback pocket. Which includes an air sickness bag…
… and a safety card. No inflight magazine sadly.
About two hours or so before landing, the crew came around with dinner. The first thing I noticed was the tiny tray table. Just look at how much the cup wedge takes up the entire space. It's about 2/3 the size of a normal-sized tray table on most airlines (and even those are honestly too small).
It basically made fitting the tray on the table very, very hard. I actually had to hang a bit of the tray off to make everything fit, which is just anxiety inducing for me haha.
But anyway, here's the meal. The classic options of chicken or pasta was offered. I went with the chicken. I was chicken biryani with a couscous salad (with raisin), a raspberry sponge cake along with a bun and butter. Despite the tiny tray, the portions is really good and everything tasted amazing, including the bun, which was nice and soft as opposed to the rock hard buns most airline expect you to chew through.
And no, it's not the cup wedge that's huge. The cup is actually tiny.
One thing to note is that Saudia is a dry airline, which means no alcohol is served onboard. It's not a big issue for me (as I don't drink) but it might be for some (especially in Business).
Descending into Jeddah.
Nice views of the city on final.
Welcome to Saudi Arabia! We arrived on time.
Terminal 1 at King Abdulaziz Airport opened in 2019. After flying out of the brand new Terminal A of Abu Dhabi just a month ago, I honestly didn't think anything would match it in terms of grandness, I might be right on that but JED is a close second. An in depth look at the terminal is in my second FR to Dar but I'll just include this photo of me walking to transfers.
I'll end this FR here. My next FR to Dar-es-Salaam will continue right after this. See you there!
A really, really nice flight with Saudia. Obviously flying on a 12 day old plane really helps with the 4k IFE screen with a ton of content. The legroom was average and the catering was really nice with good portions. My only real complaint is the lack of Wi-Fi onboard (very surprising considering the brand new plane) and the absolutely tiny tray table that makes eating dinner an anxiety-inducing juggling game. Are they a worth competitor to regional giants like Qatar, Emirates and Etihad? I'd say yes. While Saudia aren't at the level of Qatar/Emirates in terms of service, they're way better than your average European carrier and for £165 roundtrip to Africa from Europe, I'd say that's the bargain of the year.
Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) - A nice airport with a ton of shops and designer brands. The gate can get very crowded as it's a tiny area crammed with a lot of gates that often serves wide-bodies. It's not pretty or new (unlike Jeddah) but it gets the jobs done.
Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) - A very modern and grand airport although efficiency can be an issue and it's quite confusing (as you'll see in my next FR) .