Saudia Business Class Trip Report: Riyadh – Washington Dulles

Pakistani Correspondent continues her guest post describing the experience flying Saudia business class, which she redeemed using American Express Membership Rewards points transferred to Delta. This is the final installment of her report.

Here’s her previous installment:

And now P.C. continues with her final installment, flying Saudia from Riyadh to Washington Dulles.

A 777-300ER was awaiting and I was excited to have premium seats in what looked like a full flight. My seat was missing a blanket and a headset which I had to ask for. I was generally satisfied with new magazines, functional remote and a better entertainment guide.

I discovered that I could pull a wall between the seats that came equipped with individual lighting, however, my light did not work. Also, I was not prepared for the haggling of seats that ensued once I settled in my seat. It seemed like musical chairs.

Lots of people were bumping up from economy, and no less than 3 people asked me if I could move to x, y, z location, so a, b, c, could sit together. Literally, the people just stood in the aisles going around with their boarding stubs even when the doors were closed.

The usual excuse was that a female member of the family did not want to sit with strangers but I did not yield my window seat to anyone. I’m certain this barter was the cause of our delay.

In flight, the outlet had a green light, but I didn’t get any charge at any time during the flight.

The service was generally polite. The menu this time advertised soup and breadsticks so I was quite thrilled, but alas there was no soup on the flight. I eventually settled for the marinated prawn for starter which was quite delicious

For my main dish, I wanted to try something from the local cuisine so I got the Lamb Kapsa (rice dish), but it was very dry and bland.

For my next meal, I decided to play it safe with Arab mezze for starters, and the grilled seafood for my main dish. The Fish was a bit salty but overall the meal was pleasant. I was quite full and skipped the dessert and dozed off till landing.

Ultimately, most of the stumbles that I encountered in my travel were due to third world problems (airport mismanagement, unavailability of advanced landing technology during fog). I would definitely fly the same route with Saudia again.

If you can put up with a dry airline, and going through Saudi Arabia (transit restrictions for women, dressing modestly etc), the airline is a very good option for travelers who are looking to connect onwards.

For their US routes, Saudia has new planes and pretty decent service (albeit a bit rushed). The award availability even during peak times is phenomenal, and for people going to Pakistan, there really aren’t that many travel options.

Tremendous thanks to View from the Wing’s Pakistani Correspondent for sharing her experience flying Saudia business class on a Delta Skymiles award. Hopefully it will help you just whether it’s a reasonable fit for your own travels, given how good availability is and how challenging it can be to get premium cabin awards with Delta sometimes.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] View from the Wing’s Pakistani Correspondent reported on her Saudia business class award trip, and folks considering this trip might find her experiences useful: New York JFK – Jeddah Saudia Lounge, Jeddah and Jeddah-Lahore CIP Lounge in Lahore, Pakistan Lahore – Riyadh Saudia Lounge, Riyadh Saudia Business Class, Riyadh – Washington Dulles […]

Comments

  1. There actually are many options flying to Lahore: Emirates, Etihad, Thai, etc. Even more options to other Pakistani cities: Cathay, Turkish etc. EY, EK & TK are all one stop connections to Pakistan from the U.S.

  2. Don’t forget QR.

    Going on Thai seems like it would be very long trip, which is ok if you’re interested in seeing Bangkok for a few hours.

    While probably the most popular option for paid tickets, Emirates was not an easy option for award tickets, but that’s changing with Amex MR and Alaska partnerships.

    I think AA doesn’t let you book awards that go Trans-pacific to South Asia, so Cathay wouldn’t work (could be wrong).

    And finally, I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding any Y class availability on TK (needed for family travel).

    So there are options to get to Pakistan (EY is probably the most available IME), but I wouldn’t really say “many”.

  3. Based on your first few paragraphs on things being not right I’m quite surprised by your conclusion that you enjoyed the experience.

    After living in Riyadh for a year and a half I got sick of Saudia and hope never to fly with them again. It seems little has changed.

    The farce of people trying to change seats is also sad to hear still goes on. When such strict religious requirements apply the airline should be proactive enough to allocate the seats appropriately on booking. Sorting it out when people have already boarded is a joke.

    I remember finding people sat in my seat and refusing to move. It often infuriated me but there was little I could do.

  4. The Gulf airlines (Etihad, Emirates, Qatar, Saudia) are the only reasonable one stop flight options to Lahore. Qatar and Emirates are fairly recent offerings from Dulles, so it’s good to have more options in this area. Also, for flights onward to Lahore, layover in Doha is much preferred to the ~20 hour layover in Dubai. I guess there is Kuwait and Gulf air too. Considering the amount of expats in the DC/MD/VA area traveling to a city of 10 million people, bookings are nuts.

  5. Hi.. How does one contribute to your blog in the manner that the Pakistani Correspondent has? I took an amazing trip on Singapore Suites recently and would love to do a write-up…just wondering..Thanks.

  6. After reading all these posts about Saudia in business class it makes me fell better about flying Delta on coach.

  7. I was pretty surprised reading the conclusion that your PC would actually fly this airline again. Pretty much nothing of what I read is what I’d expect or want to experience when booking a premium cabin (cash or award). It didn’t sound like any one segment or stopover was anywhere near perfect.

  8. @Ed Unfortunately, there aren’t too many options going to Lahore. This was the best redemption deal at the time of booking and Saudia does have a lot of open reward seats. It was still much much preferred to flying PIA that has leaking bathrooms (http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/holidays/article-2385263/Barclaycards-650-flight-compensation-passenger-toilet-trouble-off.html), drunk pilots (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2425447/Pakistan-International-Airlines-pilot-arrested-suspicion-drunk-charge-plane-Leeds-Bradford-airport.html), and failing engines (http://tribune.com.pk/story/614764/pia-launches-investigation-into-pk-213-engine-fire/)

  9. @Aarif – going to South Asia on Cathay, you have to buy two separate tickets, one from US to Hong Kong and another one for the onward journey to South Asia. So AA would require more miles for the award trip from US to South Asia, but it is doable.

    @PC – Do male passengers come around asking an unaccompanied female if she would move to seat x y z so that a b c could sit together, or do they do it through the flight attendants, or through their female partners? Just curious.

  10. You should consider yourself lucky they allowed you to remain in your window seat without any altercation. I guess you were traveling back to the US, not the other way around. That probably made a difference.

    Quite frankly, there are other alternatives listed above, that offer a more dignified experience. A single woman should never have to endure that type of treatment, never!

    Nonetheless, I am surprised to hear that you would consider flying again on that disgusting airline. I guess today is Halloween…

    Thanks for your report!

  11. @Fflyer It was through other female members (till I said I don’t speak Arabic) or via flight crew. Note: all female attendants of Saudia are non-Saudi/foreign.

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