Trip Report: Saudia Airlines, Abu Dhabi to Jeddah
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Our flight from Abu Dhabi to Jeddah was scheduled to take off at 11:50a. After the reservations been booked, I tried to go online and manage the reservation but could not. I had booked the flight through a travel agent, but for other airlines this had never been a problem. I called the reservation number to manage my booking, including adding frequent flyer numbers, requesting special meals, and seat assignments. I had downloaded the Saudia app but even through that I could not manage my booking. The day before my flight I went online to checkin – online checkin is only available in some markets – and when checking in I could change seats and review my booking.
Even though we had checked in, we were still told to be at the airport 3hrs early. We arrived to the airport two hours early and there was no one in line so checkin and luggage tagging was very quick. We received our printed boarding pass and went to spend some time before the flight.
The flight was scheduled to take off at 11:50am and boarding scheduled to start at 10:40am, but when we arrive at the gate around 10:30a the inbound aircraft had not arrived yet. The aircraft arrived around 11am and it took a while before the plane was ready to be boarded which resulted to a delayed start. The operating aircraft is an Airbus A321in a 3-3 layout. The boarding process started and we boarded the plane. The first three rows were in 2-2 business class layout followed by economy class. When I checked in, I was able to select seats in front of the plane. While the outside of the plane looked decent, the inside of the plane indicated it was an older plane. There are positive and negative aspects of older planes – the positive being bigger seat width and seat pitch while the negative include less amenities such as USB ports and PTVs.
As this was an older plane, the seats were large and comfortable with a good seat pitch. There were no USB port nor any PTVs, the only feature of the seat was channel and volume control in the side of the armrest (some of which worked, some didn’t). The passengers boarded and we deplaned behind schedule – as in before Saudia never seemed to be focused on ontime departure. As soon as all passengers had boarded, refreshing wipes were passed out. A safety video was screened on the overhead screens (some of which came down, others didn’t).
The scheduled flight time is 3hr10min but the actual flight time is around 2.5hrs. We reached cruising altitude, but even after that the flight attendants took another 30-45mins before the service started. They first started by delivering the special meals, but it took them another 20-30mins before the regular service started. The service included a meal and drink service. The meal included a choice between chicken and fish with rice. The meals were substantial in amount but were average in taste. After the meal both tea and coffee were offered.
Once the meal trays were cleared, there was really nothing to do to pass the time. The entertainment on board including the airline magazine as well as some programs shown on the overhead screen. The shows included lots of commercial and only 10mins of Mr.Bean; however it was difficult to hear thru program as the channel system stopped working many times. After a bit more time, we descended into Jeddah. We landed and taxied to our parking spot – Jeddah does not have any jetbridges so every passengers deplaned via stairs and buses.
Overall, it was an average flight with Saudia. I had not seen any changes in the last ten years, as both then and now both the aircraft and service were decent; nothing spectacular and everything right above basic. From others who have taken the Boeing 777, those planes have good seat pitches, USB ports and PTVs so I am a bit torn as whether to take Saudia longhaul – they have good specials and prices but their service can be average.