This is a flight I took when leaving Saudi Arabia for Europe. Saudia use low density refurbished A320s on longer haul flights to Europe. These A320s have been refurbished with flat bed in Business Class, seat back IFE in all classes and have Wi-Fi on-board.
The flight from Jeddah to Geneva uses the new Jeddah Terminal 1. Currently only a handful of flights use the new terminal, including selected Saudia flights to Central Europe/Middle East and Etihad.
There is no lounge open yet in the International side of the terminal. The train (APM) is currently on trial and not available; however the walk isn't too bad, as a lot of the end gates are not in use.
The configuration of the refurbished Saudia A320 is 20 full flat bed Business Class seats in the first 5 rows, followed by 90 Economy Class seats. The aircraft registration for my flight was HZ-ASA. I was told that Saudia both own and lease A320s in their fleet; you can tell which ones are the owned ones by the registration ending with an alphabet letter (e.g HZ-ASA) the registration for the leased ones end with numbers (e.g HZ-AS75). The refurbished A320 are all owned by Saudia.
Upon sitting down I was offered a newspaper, a hot towel and a welcome "Anti-oxidant" juice; this is made up of a mix of mango, raspberry and strawberry juices.
There was also the traditional Arabic coffee and date service before takeoff.
There was a rather large Missoni branded amenity kit presented on this day flight.
The flight from Jeddah to Geneva took 6 hours, slightly longer than I thought but it was against some seasonal head wind. We flew over The Red Sea with some wonderfully clear sky's; the view was lovely en route, it seems that Saudi Arabia has a lot of hidden treasure and potential in developing these natural landscapes and resources.
Food and Beverage
Saudia do not serve alcohol on-board, instead they have some rather interesting non-alcoholic mocktails, juices, Bellini and a "Water Bar".
The service was excellent, given that the flight was not full at all. There were about 10 passengers in Business and 35 in Economy.
They offer Dine on Demand, anytime dining. There were two set menus, Arabic set cuisine or cuisine of the Mediterranean sun. I was allowed to mix and match my meals, I chose the appetiser from the Mediterranean Sun and the main course from the Arabic cuisine.
The meal was stunning in both presentation and taste. I have noticed that their quantities are on the bigger side, look at how large the soup bowl is. I had the cured salmon and the soup was zucchini and shallot. The main course was lamb kofta and I finished off with the bread pudding and ice cream.
IFE and Wi-Fi
There was IFE on every seat. I enjoyed a Saudi comedy about a lady disguised as a man in order to drive. I couldn't however connect to the Wi-Fi during the flight.
I slept a few hours before we flew over the European Alps, with some spectacular views on approach into Geneva. The bed was reasonably wide for my shoulders and long enough for my height (6'1"). The downside is that you have to cross over someone to get out, if there is someone sitting next to you that is.
This Saudia A320 flight was very impressive. Flat bed, great food, dine on demand and IFE, on an A320 this is as good as it can get. The only other airline that has this configuration on an A320, that I can think of, is Qatar Airways (this layout can also be found on United/Delta on premium 757 and Jetblue and American on premium A321)
Given that my flight was light, the service and attention were both excellent. It seems Saudia have elevated their international premium service. However, they need to continue to improve their ground service. Saudia is a conservative airline that doesn't offer alcohol. Their model isn't quite the same as Emirates, transiting mass travelling public through their megahub.
I expect the infrastructure at Jeddah will allow for a better connection between Europe and Asia (6th freedom connection) which may make Saudia a better choice.
Using Miles to Redeem on Saudia Premium Class
A one way flight between Saudi Arabia and Europe in Business Class cost 47,500 Al Fursan miles, with low tax. The availability on award seats on Saudia is decent. I have also previously flown Saudia First Class, using Korean Skypass miles.
Cheap Saudia Premium Fare?
There are attractive Saudia Business Class fares originating from Istanbul to Asia (Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila) via Riyadh or Jeddah. If you're looking to travel from Asia to Europe, perhaps consider flying from Colombo. The fares below are extracted from Expertflyer and do not include taxes or surcharges.