Saudia; Saudi Arabian Airlines Review; Online booking problems
Traveling in Saudi Arabia
Saudia or Saudi Arabian Airlines is the main operator of aircraft in Saudi Arabia, this Saudi Arabian Airlines review will give my opinions on this airline and the many online booking problems I have had.If you are working in Saudi Arabia and want to get anywhere quickly then flying is your best option. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is mainly desert, and the cities are separated by many hundreds of miles (or Kilometers if you like these newfangled measures.) Traveling in the Kingdom therefore is best done by air, the countries main operator being Saudi Arabian Airlines or Saudia as most people call them here. I hope that this review of Saudi Airlines (Saudia) is helpful for you.
However at peak times it can be difficult to get a flight and you may have to drive, the following hubs can give you more information regarding this option; Saudi Arabia Travel, Saudi Arabia Driving, and Long Distance drives in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Airlines safety video
The main airports, Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam are quite modern and well maintained with all of the usual facilities. Smoking is not allowed, however the Saudis ignore this and smoke everywhere!
Internet access is on the whole not available, not even where they say it is in my experience. Food and drink is “OK”, but nothing to write home about either, price wise it is a little more expensive than outside but not as inflated as in some airports.Duty free shopping is generally more expensive than the shops outside, with no tax this is really just last minute shopping! But don’t expect to find a nice bottle of Gin for your favorite aunt!
Main International Airports in Saudi Arabia
Buy Saudia Ticket Online
Online Booking your Ticket for Saudia
There are many agents scattered around from which to buy your ticket without any difficulty, most employ someone who has enough English to help you if you speak no Arabic.
Buying a ticket direct from Saudi Airlines on their website is recommended, however I still have never once been able to do so as the website has always failed whenever I have tried to book. I have asked other people and some can book without problem but many cannot manage to complete the booking process through the Saudi Airlines website. Online booking although recommended is not always possible!
Saudi Airlines are now trying to cut out the agents by charging them a fee which they have to pass on to the customer, therefore it is cheaper to book online, I just hope that they improve their system enough for me to book next time I need them!
I have also had problems with using the machines in the airports to book onto the flight when not having to check my luggage, when the tickets have been bought online by my company the machines do not recognize the codes on the tickets and I still have to queue to get my seat on the plane.
Landing in Riyadh
Check In - Saudi Arabia Airlines
Each airport is quite well built and designed, however check in can be a pain in the posterior regions, especially in Riyadh.
In Riyadh they are far too slow and there are not enough check in desks, they suggest that you use the electronic check in machines to get your boarding pass if you don’t have any luggage to check but I have yet to make this to work for me, I am advised this is something to do with having used an agent rather than booking direct through Saudi Airlines.
The Saudis use their usual method of walking directly to the front of the queue to argue with the guys issuing boarding passes in an attempt to get seen quicker, in some cases this works for them, especially if they have a friend that works there or a friend of a friend of a friend.. Most of the time it just makes things even slower and more difficult for everyone! In Jeddah I now go one better as I really do have friends (Saudi drinking buddies) working there and get my boarding passes and luggage checked without being in a queue at all, as long as they are on duty!
The electronic signboards are more often than not wrong, they will tell you which gate to depart from and you will depart from another, it can be quite confusing as they sometimes “forget” to make announcements in English and everyone else starts running toward a different gate!
The security checks are generally quite relaxed, people are friendly and things move quite rapidly just like any other airport. However please note that the ladies will have a separate route through all of their own to prevent embarrassment in front of the men.
Saudi Arabian Airlines Fleet
Onboard Saudi Arabian Airlines
The planes are reasonable, a few minor maintenance issues such as TV’s that don’t work or have no sound for long haul flights. Recliners that fail on the seats that mean you either cannot recline or you have no choice but to! I have even found incorrect cushions on the seats meaning that you are sat on an incline (I used to work for a seat manufacturer, I spent a few minutes on one flight swapping all of the cushions in my row on the plane until everyone was sat “flat” and comfortably!)
The food is OK, nothing special but it is at least edible and identifiable as being food. Most Saudis are quite demanding to say the least so they have to make sure that things are passable at least as they will complain quite bitterly.
Being seated on a Saudi plane can become interesting, some Saudis will just take any seat as it is “their” airline, they will try to take the best locations even if they have not been allocated them on their boarding pass, a long suffering Indian or such like will have no chance of moving them if it is their seat! Otherwise minor arguments can arise between Saudi’s the displaced one insiting to be moved to business class rather than having the other moved and so on – I am glad that I don’t work on these planes!
Segregation of the Sexes on Saudi Airlines
The other problem on board is women, Saudi women will only want to be sat next to their family or other women, anything else is unacceptable. This can lead to a lot of seat shuffling before departure as no allowance for this is made when allocating the boarding passes.
Thankfully this can be a short process as on many of the flights the number of women travelling is very small, however I have seen women leave the aircraft as they cannot sit alone!
In one incident, there was a woman that was made to stand for some time while they tried to find a seat on a full plane, the air stewardess spotted a row with a Filipina woman with a small child sat on a seat and ordered the Filipina to sit the child on her lap so that the other woman could sit. The Filipina started to complain that the child was entitled to a seat but was unable to produce a boarding pass to show as such, the stewardess was very rude to her and made her take the child, sitting the lone woman there. A phone call later, the real mother of the child appeared, the Filipina only being the maid; the mother having been sitting in peace with her husband at the other end of the plane. At this point it seemed that all out war erupted as this woman screamed and shouted at the stewardess and the poor woman that had been seated in her child’s place!
Dammam Airport Saudi Arabia
The worst airport in my mind was Dammam airport, the first time I arrived there was for an international flight, my internal flight was delayed by over an hour due to a storm, which we bounced around in to the tune of people throwing up for an hour before being allowed to land. I guessed that our ongoing flight would also be delayed by the same storm but time was still going to be short, so we looked on the board and headed straight for the indicated gate.
We arrived there at the opposite side of the airport and it was deserted! So we asked, the person we asked looked at the board and said it was right, wait there, so we asked someone else, they took us back to where we had started and pushed us through an entrance next to where we had come in, the security check and passport control area which was totally packed with people queuing.
We were asked which flight and were directed into a queue that was neither moving nor had anyone in the kiosk to check the passports! We stood here for a few minutes reassured by the fact that others in this queue were on the same flight. Until someone started asking in Arabic for all of the people that were on our flight to move to a different queue, which we all promptly did. The first person went to the kiosk to have their passport checked, there was a problem so the guy in the kiosk disappeared, minutes passed, more minutes passed, our old queue was now open and moving – rapidly! Our flight was now “boarding” and no one was letting us through, so I asked, they looked confused, they wandered off!
Eventually they called us to yet another kiosk and split the line to move us quickly through but it was a farce!
Saudi Arabian Airlines Landing in Jeddah
Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia
I love flying from Jeddah, I now have a number of friends that work at the airport so I find myself with a number of privileges such as not queuing for check in and frequent up grades, all of the things that I used to complain about with the Saudis! If you can’t beat them as the saying goes, join them!
Even before these privileges I always found Jeddah to be the quickest and most reliable with regard to the information provided.
The only thing that I don't like about Jeddah is the Bus ride to and from the planes, I can't wait for the improvements to be done to cut this out.
Jeddah on the Red Sea
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More help when traveling in Saudi Arabia
Before boarding that Saudi Airlines flight to Riyadh, Jeddah or Dammam you had better be sure that you know what you are letting yourself in for! Going to Saudi Arabia either by plane or even by road is a decision that should never be taken lightly.
Saudi Arabia really is like arriving on a different planet, the weather is unbelievably hot and the culture completely different. This is the birthplace of Islam one of the most restrictive religions on earth and as such you may find the rules which are based on both their culture and the Muslim religion far too restrictive.
Before you travel read this guide to surviving as an expatriate in KSA so that you can fully understand about living and working in the Kingdom.