Pros: Seats, Aircraft, Destinations
Cons: Service, Ground Handling, Cabin Crew
One may say, Vicar, " you mention great seats, aircrafts and destinations...yet you recommend avoiding this airline like the plague! "
I have been flying Saudia for over 5 years and 99% of the time, into the Kingdom and back to my original destination. My first impressions in the mid 90s were not that high and at some stage, I firmly opted to find substitutes, even if it meant an additional stop or delayed flight time. Today, things have not changed much....like Gulf Air, the airline is too arrogant, over staffed, ill managed and..well....read on.
Simply put, Saudia is the Kingdom's legacy of long standing Monopolies, Government mis-use and a royal family that treats the national carrier as their own little taxi service.
It is not uncommon for flights to be delayed or cancelled altogether, simply because a royal member of the family decided to charter a flight to the South of France. This has happened once with the lamest excuse being a technical fault. The silly part is watching your aircraft being towed to the royal apron while 25 black Mercedes Benzes whiz to drop off the lofty royals.
Classic delays also include the wrong food being shipped to the aircraft, technical faults, a completely messed up interior which requires the poor Asian cleaners to slave on both hands and knees, late arrival of flight crew.....and the list goes on.
However, and based on other reviews of this nature about Saudia, rarely has airport services been sited as a major concern. Like in most countries, ticketing at the Kingdom's lame airports is managed by Saudia staff and not staff from the airport authority.
Saudi Airports are notoriously filthy, unmanageable, oversized and ill staffed. A typical international flight to Dubai from Jeddah for example, saw us standing in a queue for 45 minutes (3 people in front of me!!) while every other saudi Bedouin came and crossed through. I also forget to mention that they are all related at some stage and you can't miss the dramatics of nose kissing and over stated hellos. The queues run for miles and if you don't make the airport at least 2 hours in advance, you WILL GET BUMPED OFF with some silly excuse.
The other reason to show up early is that when you take these oversized airports, out of the 200 or so check in counters, you will get 30 working. Now take into consideration that Saudia ground staff pray a lot, frequent the toilets more often than once (which may suggest bladder problems amongst the population) and smoke!!.....you better show up early. This is true if you fly any airline to or from the Kingdom.
On board, I have to admit that the seats on their 777, 747-400s and MD80s are quite comfortable. Both coach and business. First is over stated with no real difference from business.
Cabin crew are rated 2/10 for appearance, 1/10 for service, 2/10 for comprehension (unless you are an Egyptian, Moroccan, Algerian or Pilipino traveler.), 3/10 for assistance during flight.
Out of 60 flights on Saudia, 2 were memorable, 50 tolerable and 8 complete nightmares (in addition to the airport arrivals and departures).
I have flown over 78 airlines, 25 of them now defunct....Saudia comfortably ranks number 77 behind Miat Mongolian.
My review may be harsh and somewhat silly to some, but when you ask for the totals, I give them to you:
On a scale of 1-10
Value for Money : 3
Seats: 8 (excluding A300 and B747-SP/200 and 737-200)
Do not consider Saudia for holiday packages or travels unless you are prepared to tolerate the service, the airport and more so - if you will transit via the Kingdom.
Their Frequent Flyer program (Al Fursan) is not exactly something to whistle about and fly to gain miles. The redemption structure is complicated and too many hidden factors pop up when you read the endless fine print.
I hope that this review sums up the finer points of flying Saudia.