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Old 6th October 2018, 08:22 PM   #1
SQueeze
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Default Saudia business class for <500 Euro: Rome-Jakarta

Background:

Saudia has been in my radar for a Long time. The closed country is mysterious and for those who have been following my reports will know that I have special affinity for obscure places which the general public will steer clear of.

I got excited when Saudia released cheap business fares from Italy to Jakarta. At just under 500 euros, it’s a steal and it’s on par with many Economy fares on the more premium airlines such as SQ. In my opinion, business class is still business class no matter on what airline and it will always be more comfortable than any Economy class. I will leave it open if anyone is going to say this is an error fare but it does not seem so as this has been running for quite some time. Even now.

My route was FCO-RUH-CGK. Enjoy.

Chapter 1: Rome-Riyadh

Flight: SV208
Aircraft: A320-200
Registration: HZ-ASC
Class: Business
Seat: 2A
Load: 100%

I had earlier arrived at Fiumicino airport on TAROM 4 hours prior to departure. Fiumicino on the particular day was extremely crowded with lots of returning Asian tourists especially from India.



I had to wait for awhile before Saudia counter opened for check in 3 hours before the flight. I was one of the first and there was no queue.



Business class passengers had access to fast track security which was helpful as the airport was a borderline commotion due to the crowd of the tourist peak season.



Unfortunately, there is no more fast track for immigration. The fast track lane is only for last minute passengers and in any case it was closed.



I had to squeeze in with everybody else.

And as we can see here, I felt like I was in India! The ‘good’ ole days of old Mumbai airport with its low ceiling and its 90 minute queues! How nostalgic. And this crowd was friendly. They chatted me up and I got to practice my broken Hindi. They were all surprised to find a random Chinese guy in Rome who somewhat could speak some Hindi.



It took a good hour to go through the queue but time passed ok when you are in the company of a very social crowd.

I was left with barely an hour before the flight and I walked through the terminal building which seems new.



However, I was very surprised that the Skyteam lounge is very underwhelming considering this is a Skyteam main hub. It’s in what appears to be in the old wing. I wonder if there is a better lounge elsewhere but this is the Alitalia lounge I was directed to as a Saudia passenger.



The interior is pleasant but not wow. And it’s small for a hub. And so I found it overcrowded.



There are more seats on the upper level but all the food is downstairs.




The selection of appetisers was good.



But the mains selection was really poor.

]

Drinks are served off the bar (so no free flow self service). As well as the desserts. You have to point to what you want.


Last edited by SQueeze; 7th October 2018 at 03:50 PM..
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Old 6th October 2018, 08:29 PM   #2
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I didnít have much time there and when I reached the gate, I could straight ahead board, greeted by a pleasant asian crew of Filipino origin.



I had known that the flight would be operated by a narrow body - an A320. I didnít have high expectation (expecting a SilkAir experience) but I was very pleasantly surprised.

Legroom is very generous. It feels really spacious. Itís nothing like SilkAir or domestic flights in India. This is a much more superior product.





I have never seen this much space in front of me unless it's First Class



Checking out the functionalities of the seat. Just basic recline etc.



The recline is extremely generous too. I am really impressed on how comfortable a narrow body can be. I Guess those regional flights by SilkAir and Jet are spoiling my impression.






And the cabin is also cold. I am a cold weather person and appreciates cool cabin temperatures. This is what I notice from most middle eastern carriers. Not sure how true or itís just an irrational opinion. On SQ, I always have to ask for temperature reduction.

Service started with cold towels - again my preference over the hot ones served on SQ. Very refreshing. And the design is nice too.



And then drinks were offered. Since alcohol is not served on Saudia, they offer a mind-boggling array of juices which look like a rainbow. Very beautiful tray I must say.



I picked the date juice which was amazing. In fact, I would go on to say this was spectacular. So far I have been very impressed.

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Old 6th October 2018, 09:54 PM   #3
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Looking out the window, was an Air Moldova. I was originally planning to take this one direct from Chisinau but was worried about connection time. If only airport security could be as simple as walking from gate to gate.



Soon after, we were airborne over the Mediterranean bound for Riyadh.



As usual, I browsed through every airline reading materials.



Network map is quite extensive.



And the fleet. Pity no more 747s.



English reading material is basically government propaganda on the future multi billion dollar progressive city to be built by the Red Sea. While Arabic reading material is on sightseeing destinations in Europe.



There is also an extensive feature on the new business class seats in reverse herringbone style which I wonít get to experience on this route. What could I say when i was paying <500 euros



IFE selection is varied and there is an enormous amount of religious programmes.



IFE is the flip type from the arm rest.



And headset seems rather cheap and flimsy type.



Unfortunately, IFE was not working on my seat. It couldn't pass beyond this landing page and flight was full. First demerit point.

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Old 6th October 2018, 09:55 PM   #4
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Meal service started with date.



And then Arabic mezze. Which was fine.



And my mains were pasta. Considering that this flight originated from Italy, the quality of the pasta was considered abysmally bad. Terrible. Another demerit for catering.



And then it ended with dessert, which was not memorable either.




Evian was probably the highlight of the meal!



Service throughput was friendly enough although nothing outstanding.

The journey continued smoothly, made landfall at Egypt near Alexandria and then we flew over the desert all the way to Riyadh.

We landed in Riyadh just slightly a little over 5 hours later in the middle of the night.

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Old 6th October 2018, 10:04 PM   #5
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Chapter 2: Riyadh-Jakarta

Flight: SV822
Aircraft: 777-300ER
Registration: HZ-AK12
Class: Business
Seat: 1A
Load: 6/30 (20%)


Riyadh terminal building is huge but was also extremely crowded that night. The waiting areas were brimming with labourers from various parts of Asia and Africa. I have no issue with them but if one is sensitive to chaos, one might want to steer clear of routings such as this.



Access to business class lounge is definitely much appreciated although I am quite disappointed that there are no shower facilities.

Itís a pleasant lounge



but very soon it filled up again brimming to borderline capacity and it became noisy with chit chats and I lost my peace.



They have a kidís play area right at the entrance next to the dining room and while most of the kids had gone, it was quite a commotion a few minutes earlier. Not a good idea to put kidís lounge inside the business class lounge.



I donít like the overall crowd atmosphere in the lounge but other than that, the food was good and selection was quite extensive.





There are also semi private rooms towards the rear but it didnít help with so much chit chat in the surroundings. My photos look peaceful but it was not in reality the crowd was a rather social group (groups and families).



I spent good 3 plus hours in the lounge before I headed to the Gate. And I soon realise that there would be a delay since the crew had yet to board. No seating space available so I had to stand awhile.



When it was finally boarding, I soon realised that there was no such thing as priority lane for this route! So letís queue with the hundreds others. The Indonesia route is high traffic in economy for Saudia. They run at least 3 flights per day.

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Old 6th October 2018, 11:11 PM   #6
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Business class however was extremely light load with 6 passengers out of 30 capacity.



With such a light load, I have the entire row 1 A to K for myself. The seats are quite similar to SQ Spacebeds of the olden days. Or are they? Those were quite some time bad, my memory is fading.



Seat console.



Storage space for smaller items



IFE screen is stored in arm rest



But it's completely broken again.
What is wrong with Saudia




Good privacy screen



Service started with the famous juice (this time I picked lime)



And then amenity kits were also distributed.



And the menu. It’s not a really Long flight of just about 9 hours. 2 full meals are served but since it’s so late and I was already falling asleep I had asked for a dnd (do not disturb) service through supper and will take my meal just before landing. The friendly crew offered if I would like to reserve something from the supper menu for the morning meal. I just went with that as the evening menu seems better. I appreciate the flexibility offered.



And then I went straight to bed. I had a really sound sleep in the cold cabin temperature and I woke up more than 6-7 hours later without interruption. It was bright daylight afternoon by that time.



The bed was not exactly flat but it was one of the best sleep I ever had. Thumbs up. I Guess I was tired too since I had started my journey more than 24 hours earlier in Chisinau, Moldova at 3am an had done a marathon Chisinau-Bucharest-Rome-Riyadh-and now approaching Jakarta.

Last edited by SQueeze; 6th October 2018 at 11:26 PM..
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Old 6th October 2018, 11:15 PM   #7
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I started my meal with coffee.



And more yummy juices. This was papaya



And then orange. I love Saudia’s juices.



By this time we had made landfall in Indonesia over North Sumatra, trailing the coast.



My main arrived. I had Low expectation. But this was amazing awesome delicious. In fact, I thought this was one of the best inflight meal I ever had. Everything was moist and felt fresh and flavourful. Well done Riyadh’s catering and Saudia. Out of Rome, it was dismal, but this was fantastic.



Dessert was delicious too.



Soon we flew nearby Singapore. Hello Home it’s incredible to see almost the entire country can be captured in one frame - our little red dot.



And just an hour later we were making circles over the Java coast waiting for our turn to land at the busy Jakarta airport.



We landed. Approaching Terminal 3, Skyteam Hub, home base of Garuda. All blue



And disembarked at the new Terminal 3, another Skyteam hub. I had travelled through 4 Skyteam hubs in the last 2 days: Otopeni, Fiumicino, King Khaled, and now Soekarno-Hatta.

I think the terminal is badly designed and poorly constructed. Long walks and with poor lighting. It’s not a pleasant experience. I think CGK missed the opportunity to develop a world class terminal.





Verdict:

At the price that I paid, I have nothing to complain about the entire experience. The hardware was comfortable enough with its spaciousness although the flights were not served by its state-of-the-art product. The crew was consistently friendly enough. The food was a hit and miss with the first sector being abysmally bad and the second sector almost spectacular. There was no alcohol but they made up for it with a spectacular array of delicious juices. The lounge was just average and I think my impression of it was more tarnished by the noisy groups using it.

Will I fly Saudia again? Definitely!

Last edited by SQueeze; 9th October 2018 at 12:00 AM..
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Old 7th October 2018, 01:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SQueeze View Post
I spent good 3 plus hours in the lounge before I headed to the Gate. And I soon realise that there would be a delay since the crew had yet to board. No seating space available so I had to stand awhile.

very interesting tr, indeed. i was intrigued by this picture of the scene at the boarding gate, particularly the blue-clad figures on the bottom right

from the back, the crew's blue uniform looks not unlike the afghan blue burqas that cover the female from head to toe, with only a mesh for the eyes to peek through to the outside world

for a second, i thought these were afghan blue burqa-clad passengers, until i realised they were the crew waiting to board the flight
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Old 7th October 2018, 04:29 PM   #9
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saobangpo , thank you for the comments.

Indeed on second look, they do look like burqa-clad women. I didn't actually see any burqas on the flight or at the airport. Their dress code is mainly the black dress which they call abayas. The face is always shown but not the hair or any limbs.

The most interesting thing for me was actually observing how, when boarding the flight in Rome, I only saw regular women in jeans, even sleeveless, and dyed hair. Many branded designer bags in tow. When coming off the plane,all have been transformed to black abayas. They changed on the plane. and quite conveniently as they just wore it like a robe over their westernised attires.
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Old 7th October 2018, 04:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SQueeze View Post
The most interesting thing for me was actually observing how, when boarding the flight in Rome, I only saw regular women in jeans, even sleeveless, and dyed hair. Many branded designer bags in tow. When coming off the plane,all have been transformed to black abayas. They changed on the plane. and quite conveniently as they just wore it like a robe over their westernised attires.
yes, this is a common practice. on my flights to cmn, for example, just before descent, young women make a beeline for the lavs and the guess jeans and versace top get shrouded inside a full-length abaya. either that and/or the jalaba cloak
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Old 8th October 2018, 10:15 PM   #11
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Very nice TR, SQueeze! Amazing deal, flying J for that price.

Not the most state of the art equipment, but the J seats on both the A320 and 777 look very comfortable.

I would certainly miss the wine/liquor onboard, since Saudia is a dry airline, but the food (and juices) did look pretty good, especially ex-Riyadh. Even the pasta ex-FCO didn't look too bad, although you gave it a poor review!

Nice picture of Singapore from the air. That is one view I've always wanted to see, but I have never had the opportunity to view the island of Singapore from cruising altitude, as I am always either landing or taking off from there, never flying overhead...
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Old 11th October 2018, 11:44 PM   #12
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Thanks for sharing.

How nostalgic. Reminds me of late 2012 when I frequented SV from IST-JED/MED/RUH-KUL on a monthly basis for 6 months. Back then the A320s were still in good condition and they gave out the noise cancelling headphones for the A320.

It's a pity the catering wasn't good, because I remember back then SV catering was almost first class like. Choice of appetiser, and there were choices like lobster medallions.

Fun fact: I once turned up at check in wearing bermudas and was told to cover up or be denied boarding at gate. Ended up spending 60+ Euros at duty free for a pair of Hugo Boss Jeans.
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