Earlier this year I flew Saudia A320 Business Class for a short trip to Riyadh. I looked at various options from London, which included Qatar and Emirates (both with connections at their hubs ) but then came across a much cheaper fare from Athens on Saudia.
Saudia Airlines may not be your first choice of airline when booking a trip but I feel quite often, it is dismissed just purely by virtue of it being a dry airline. This fact was of little significance to me. Saudia, a Skyteam carrier is still a big player in the Middle East with a wide network ( I’ve reviewed most other ME airlines here so I was keen to try it out purely on the novelty aspect itself!)
It is now possible to visit Saudia Arabia as a tourist and the government is actively encouraging it. The country has many things to offer, but this is not a destination guide! It’s about the airline and what you can expect. Oh, and this also meant I got to try out a long-haul product on a more shorter-medium haul flight!
Route: Athens – Riyadh
Flight No: SV192
Flight Duration: Blocked 4 hours
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Seats/Suite: 2L Window
I arrived into Athens airport 3 hours ahead of my flight and found myself in a fairly vacant check-in area for Saudia..
Business Class passengers had two dedicated counters with the designated “Sky Priority” service. There was just one other Business Class passenger checking in at the time with the entire economy section completely empty, which is a bizarre first experience for me!
I normally travel travel with carry on, but on this trip I had a checked bag, checking in was quick and effortless however.
Lounge in Athens
Athens is not a particularly big airport so I wasn’t expecting Saudia to have it’s lounges here and true to form they were using a contract lounge that is being used by several other carriers here..
Goldair handling is the company that offers ground services to airports all over Greece. It was a decent lounge that is also accessible via Priority Pass/DragonPass networks.
I most likely won’t get a chance to review it but you can see more information here should you wish. I should note, Aegean has its own services to Riyadh with it’s own flagship lounge offering in Athens that is far more exciting, but then you have a Euro Business type product rather than a full Business product.
Boarding Saudia Airlines Business Class
Boarding for this flight was very timely and very well managed with Premium passengers making up perhaps half the flight load, it still went fairly smoothly.
Saudia A320 Business Class To Riyadh
This A320 aircraft has 20 lie flat seats of 5 rows in a 2-2 configuration. Note SeatGuru incorrectly suggests this is a recliner seat, it is fully flat !
The cabin and seats carry the same sandy beigy/grey colours of Saudia’s external livery..
Each seat measures 20″ wide with a 63″ pitch, so we are talking full long haul seat metrics! I pre-selected 2L, a window seat on the second row..
At each seat you had a good size pillow with a more lighter blue blanket..
There was also a bottle of water and noise cancelling headphone on a little space just behind your seat and the window..
The wooden console in the middle was a good place to use as a small table and there is a small partial divider between the seats. Seat next to me was empty however.
Within moments of settling in, the crew came around to over some Arabic coffee and dates..
The IFE screen was nice and crisp but with limited range of content..
Right below the screen you have a small storage shelve that is useful to storage and books/magazines or laptop inflight. What was interesting though is they had First Class designated headphones on my seat..
It made me wonder if the Business Class headphones were actually any different to First Class?
The business cabin was 85% full, with a timely boarding and subsequently on-time departure from a clear sunny Athens.
Saudia Business Class Service
As soon as our flight reached cruising altitude out of Athens, the crew sprang into action for the service.
First I was offered a hot towel, which is always appreciated and then my beverage preference was taken, for which I had a choice of several Juices and mocktail ( Reminder that is is a DRY airline).
I opted for a date smoothie, which I really liked!
While there was no paper menu handed out for this flight, the crew took meal choices during the post take off drinks orders.
There was three main options offered, I local fish with potatoes, a vegetarian curry and an Arabic Biriyani.
The meal started off with some classic Arabic mezze, Saudia style…
I found most airline overdo the Arabic mezze, so much so that by the time you get to your main you’re not even hungry anymore! Well this was not a case here as the portion sizes were perfect..
Keeping with the local Arabic theme, I also chose the Lamb Biriyani for my main..
The presentation may not be as insta worthy here, but I also really enjoyed the Biriyani, the lamp well nice and tender. It was on the very mild side so it needed a few sprinkles of salt & pepper.
After I was finished the plates were cleared away quite promptly and the crew asked if I wanted any hot beverages. I decided on a decaf cappuccino, so that I didn’t interrupt my sleep too much getting into Riyadh.
With all the plates cleared I took a quick moment to test the seat on bed mode and found it comfortable. The seat is well padded even without any toppers so it is a real treat to have such a seat for a short flight.
Not long after the cabin was being prepped for landing, even though we felt like we were in Saudi airspace for ages, it is a huge country!
We landed slightly ahead of schedule into the golden hour of Riyadh.
I had a very pleasant flight with Saudia to Riyadh and also on the flight back which was on a 777.
The seats were comfortable, the service was courteous and attentive and I enjoyed the food. There may not be as variety with the catering as other Middle eastern competitors but I liked the Biryani enough that I ordered it again for my night flight return to London on a 777..
Unless you only fly once in a blue moon and want to experience/celebrate a big occasion I think it is rather sad that many people would completely discount Saudia Airlines as an option purely on the basis that they are a dry airline. This actually suits me just fine. I loved the signature date smoothie for a change !
There is a lot of noise and change in the air in Saudi Arabian aviation with the launch of Riyadh Air which has huge ambitions to be a major carrier and disrupter in the industry. Will be interesting to see how two national carriers manage to carve out their own niches within the region.
To that end, Saudia itself is in the process of rebranding with a brand new livery including launching new Business product for the upcoming A321Neo based on the VantageSOLO suite also used by JetBlue.