I was asked whether there were any significant differences between flying Saudi Airlines as compared to any other international airline. The question was asked in the context of using Saudi Airlines to fly internationally and not domestically within the Kingdom.
In a nutshell, the answer is yes, there are significant differences in flying Saudi Airlines. First of all, prior to take off, in addition to the routine boarding announcements, there will also be a prayer or reading from the Qoran. Secondly, on the long international flights, there are usually areas which have been reserved and used as men’s prayer area. Last but certainly not least, Saudi Airlines will not provide any beverages or dishes which contain alcohol or pork products. The entertainment choices will also be “G” or maybe “PG” rated but certainly not any selections which would have an “R” rating.
In my opinion, the quality of the service was very good. I never had any complaints while flying Saudi Airlines. I liked how the food was served “trolley/family” style with all of the selections in large dishes and bowls. The flight attendants would come down the aisle with the appetizing trolley and passengers could select whatever they wished. Throughout the meal the flight attendants would continue up and down the aisles offering passengers the chance to replenish their plates if they wished.
Traveling in either business or first class, passengers received a comfortable sweat suit of pants and loose top along with regular sized products in an amenities bag. Both socks and slippers were provided too.
The domestic flights were equally nice but sometimes more “hectic” than an international flight. Due to the segregation which remains in practice within most of Saudi Arabia, it was typical for passengers to be “reshuffled” to avoid having an unrelated male and female sitting next to one another. However, knowing that this was simply part of the culture of living in the Kingdom, I found it an easy adaptation. My one critique would be how easily a passenger’s “confirmed” reservation could get cancelled on busy flights because someone with WASTA (influence and/or contacts) wanted to be on that flight and a passenger would get unceremoniously dumped in order to accommodate the “VIP.”
I found Saudi flight attendants, and especially when flying domestic, to be very accommodating and patient to passengers flying with young children. Saudi Airlines also gave out expansive entertainment bags for its young passengers.
Most of the times when I flew from Jeddah to Riyadh I would get feelings of homesickness. The aircraft was typically a 747 which had arrived from Washington’s Dulles airport and after its first stop in Jeddah would continue on to Riyadh.