The Saudia flight was from Dubai to Jeddah was so uneventful I will only spend a few sentences on it—I was tried and quickly fell asleep after the meal service, which included beef with noodles and mixed vegetables. A small salad, bread, and underwhelming Tiramisu was served with it. The meal was fine—I ate all of it—and that is about all that is to note on this flight. It was late evening and I reclined my seat and went to sleep, anticipating a long night ahead in Jeddah.
Upon arrival in Jeddah, after being bussed to the arrivals terminal rather than queuing for immigration I stopped at a transit desk in the center of the arrivals halls with a stairwell behind it. Although my visa permitted me to re-enter the Kingdom during my 9-hour layover, I opted to remain in the airport and work.
A security officer examined my passport and connecting boarding pass before writing out a meal voucher for me, a very nice touch that was totally unexpected. Saudi Arabia is no paragon of virtue, but the people are hospitable and I found all interactions during my visit—even with immigration authorities known for being nasty—to be pleasant.
Up the stairs was a locked sliding door separating me from the security checkpoint. A guard noticed me and unlocked the door, allowing me and two other passengers to pass through and enter the same security checkpoint I had used a few days earlier.
Wi-fi still wasn’t working in the terminal and electrical outlets were few and far between, but I found one and worked for a few hours before trying to catch some sleep. The male prayer areas were full of men laying down on the carpets and as I walked by the stench of body odor was overwhelming…and not all that surprising considering there were about 30 men confined in an area the size of large bathroom sleeping side by side. So I avoided those areas…
Jeddah is not a sleep-friendly airport and I ended up sitting up for the most of the night, just thankful boarding began around 5am for the flight to New York.
Being a U.S.-bound flight, there was one additional security check prior to boarding and it took a good 20 minutes to make it through the final gender-segregated security checkpoint—with plenty of pushing, shoving, and line-cutting to contend with.
Unlike the outbound flight from New York, this flight was lightly filled and I had a row of five seats in the center to myself. This 777-300ER featured onboard wi-fi and was in pristine shape.
Menus and a small amenity kit were distributed before takeoff as well a date and small cup of coffee. The travel prayer and safety video were played and soon we took off.
Still dark, FAs came by after takeoff with breakfast service and I had both the scrambled eggs and berry crepes (the flight being lightly filled, I asked for a second meal and was given one). Both were very good—this was by far the best airline meal of the trip.
With no sleep the night before and five seats to myself, I used four pillows and a couple blankets as cushions and fell asleep for the next ten hours. I slept without waking once, which is a record for me in economy class.
I woke up so late that I missed the pre-arrival meal and the seat-belt light was already on. My stomach was growling, though, so I walked up to the front galley and asked if it was possible to have a quick meal before landing. The FA obliged with a smile, even though we were less than 30 minutes from landing. I selected fish.
The fish, served with saffron and vegetables, was very good—catering was certainly satisfactory out of Jeddah—and it only took me a few minutes to wolf it down and return the tray to the FA. She was surprised I had finished so quickly.
We touched down in New York about 30 minutes behind schedule.
I won’t say Saudia was the best airline I have flown in economy class. It wasn’t. But the four flights had consistently friendly service, decent food, good IFE (minus the editing), and comfortable seats. If you are stuck flying economy class and can deal with no alcohol, Saudia is a good choice and a welcome addition to SkyTeam.
Read more of my Saudi Arabia + Afghanistan Trip Report–
Introduction: A Journey to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan
How to Obtain a Saudi Arabian Transit Visa
New York JFK to Jeddah in Saudia Economy Class
Review: Park Hyatt Jeddah
Pictures from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah to Dubai in Saudia Economy Class
Dubai to Kabul on Ariana Afghan Airlines
Arrival in Afghanistan
The Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan
My Hotel, er Compound, in Kabul, Afghanistan
Kabul – TV Tower Hill and Darul Aman Palace
Kabul – National Museum of Afghanistan
Kabul – Gardens of Babur and Kart-e Sakhi Mosque
Kabul – The Green Zone and British Cemetery
Kabul International Airport and Departing Afghanistan
The Afghanistan Dilemma
Kabul to Dubai on flydubai
Dubai to New York via Jeddah in Saudia Economy Class
The food looks yummy!
You wrote “I woke up so late that I missed the pre-arrival meal and the seat-belt light was already on. My stomach was growling, though, so I walked up to the front galley and asked if it was possible to have a quick meal before landing.”
Just curious: Why would you leave your seat when the seat-belt light was on?
You need to send these meal photos to Lufthansa. This is Miles and More ahead of what they offer in YCL.
I applaud you Matt for taking the road less taken. It is very nice to see people step away from their comfort zone in order to have new experiences. We all can learn from you.
Matthew what an excellent trip report!
Thank you for dispelling some of the myths surrounding Saudi Arabia and Afganistan. I was also pleased to see an American visit those countries with such an open mind. You’re a brave man 🙂
Thanks again – definitely one of my top trip reports ever.
Adam (London, UK)
I loved reading through this trip report, as I have never read one about travelling to Afghanistan. The descriptive details and excellent photos made it wonderful.
Saudia is not a bad airline. Saudis travel with lots of children, so this is to be expected. I have had some very good meals on Saudia, and some very bad ones as well. You keep mentioning wifi in the airports. A few businesses in the Jeddah or Riyadh airports MAY have wifi. Usually it’s down. But this is Saudi Arabia. They don’t do airport wide wifi yet. Your constant search for airport wifi makes me life for it is a fruitless search. Saudi flights to the US are often crowded but sometimes you can be lucky and get a lightly filled flight. Jeddah has got to be the worst airport in the world by the way.