How good/bad is Saudia Airlines? Our experience

Usually we don't mind the airline - whether it has good or bad reputation, as long as it is safe and brings us to our destination, it is fine for us.

But when we bought tickets to South Africa with Saudia Airlines we had some doubts, because we had heard and read many negative reviews about it. But the price was much lower comparing to other carriers, so we went with it and hoped for the best.

Saudia plane above Africa
So here is our experience:

Our flight was from Milan, Italy to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and then further to Johannesburg, South Africa.

1.) Milan - Jeddah

We had no problems in Milan, whatsoever, the only funny thing was that they rushed us on the plane like half an hour before the end of the boarding time and then we sat in the plan for about an hour and waited for departure. We noticed that the plane was a bit old and eaten up: parts of the seats' fabrics were torn and there was only one big screen in the middle of the aircraft. So we dropped the idea of watching movies during the flight immediately. When we started to prepare for take off, the first surprise came: the announcement was something like: "We are about to take off with a short prayer that prophet Mohamed used to say before his big journeys". And so we took off towards Saudi Arabia with Muslim prayer in Arabic written on the screen and read through speakers. (in the video below you can hear it).

The flight itself was rather short - only 5h30min and it was ok. The funny thing was another announcement, something like: We just crossed Tropic of Cancer may Allah be with us on all our journeys. We've never heard anything like it, especially not on the plane :) The closer to our landing we were, the more Arabic people we saw on the plane: like men in their long white ropes and women in burkas. I guess they must have changed before landing.

Tomaž is excited before his first flight ever!
Janja finnaly got her first airplane meal

2.) Layover in Jeddah

Jeddah Airport was a surprise in many ways. But first I should tell you that our layover was about 8h long and of course we didn't have visas to leave the airport - it's nearly impossible to get a visa for Saudi Arabia and we didn't even try due to high visa fee - 70€. We planned to spend our time at the airport shopping and use wi-fi for last planing of our trip. We couldn't be more wrong!
and us, sleeping next to her

Muslim prayer at the airport

So to start at the beginning: we arrived at the terminal and first we had sort of passport/ticket control where we got divided into 2 groups, one entering the country and the other one (our group) just having a connection here. Further we went to another officer, who checked our tickets and decided, who can go to the lounge and who can't. For some reason we were denied entering the lounge, so we had to head towards the main hall of the terminal. But first there was another security scan where female travelers had to go to a separate room in order to be checked by female officers. Rok tried to take a photo of me going into female security check and other officers weren't too happy about it: he had to delete it instantly! Finally on the other side ... now what? We came to a rather small terminal with only a small stall with souvenirs and two food courts, crowded with people and with only few seats - all in quite disappointing condition. And no wi-fi! Soon we discovered a nice corner with better chair and electricity plugs. We all wanted to watch some films on our laptop, but since it was brand new it didn't have any movie player and with no wifi, we couldn't download one! So there came the waiting ... the time was passing extremely slow, we played cards to take our minds off the time ... our only entertainment were calls for Muslim prayers. At that time, half of the passengers headed towards the prayer room, while the other half spread out their rugs and prayed in the terminal. One thing to note: do not use toilets a few minutes before the prayers! Reason: many people use the restrooms to wash their feet in the sink! So, WC is not really the cleanest place at that airport and we tried not to drink too much in order to avoid using toilets as much as possible :)

Video: Call to a prayer and Janja recording it - so not obvious :)

3.) Jeddah - Johannesburga

Our next flight towards Johannesburg was a long one - 10h in the air, but since it was a night flight and the aircraft was half empty we all got our own "party row" and slept like babies :)

Sunrise at the elevation of about 12000m

4.) Johannesburg - Jeddah

On our way back from Johannesburg to Jeddah we were not surprised by funny announcement about crossing different tropics :) We spent most of the time watching the land beneath us, as we were flying above Africa during the day. We managed to see lake Malawi, crater Ngorogoro and Kilimanjaro! Janja and Tomaž, on the other hand, spent most of the time watching movies (yes, this plane was bigger and we all got our own screens). Funny thing that they noticed: Hollywood movies we censured or even cut at some too revealing scenes!

Kilimanjaro from the airplane

5.) Second layover in Jeddah

The layover on our way back was also around 8h long, but this time we were allowed to the lounge. Waw, that was a difference! Comfortable seats, computer corners, big TV and free meal for everyone plus additional sandwiches, crackers and unlimited amounts of coffee and tea. Pure luxury comparing to what we had to deal with the first time. 3h before our departure we had to leave the lounge - that's their policy and we went to the terminal.

Unlimited amounts of tea in the lounge
Meal at the lounge at Jeddah airport

video: extremely loud announcement at Jeddah airport

6.) Jeddah - Milan

Another night flight and we woke up in Milan. Again we managed to get the whole row for each of us, so we overslept the entire flight, but not the meals! Rok wouldn't miss a free meal for nothing :) We also have this habit that we order some drinks, like gin tonic or rum cola on the way back home, to celebrate another successful trip. But not on Saudia flights. As a strict Muslim airlines they don't serve any alcohol, so we had to be satisfied with mango juice.

On our way towards Africa we thought to ourselves that Saudia is the worst airline, but on the way back, they seemed better. It's still not even close to Qatar or Etihad, but is't good enough to bring to your destination. So, if we find some cheap tickets we might fly with Saudia again soon.

Have you flown with Saudia before? What is your opinion about this airline?

Playing cards at Jeddah airport



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