Even though Riyadh to Los Angeles is sold as a direct flight and there is no way to purchase the Riyadh to Jeddah portion alone, I am going to break up the review into two parts.
Note that even though I am breaking up the review into two parts, this all happened at once…19 hours in the air pushes the limits of sanity, even in first class (especially with non-functioning internet).
Boarding in Riyadh began late. Since this was technically a U.S. bound flight, U.S. security procedures were followed and a special screening took place at the gate prior to boarding. Electronic devices were checked, though not closely.
I did have to present my laptop, camera and mobile phone, but they were not examined or swabbed for explosives. I was not even asked to turn on my laptop.
Boarding began at 1:35a, just five minutes before scheduled departure.
Riyadh (RUH) – Jeddah (JED)
Saturday, August 19
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1L (First Class)
Upon boarding, I was directed to my seat in 1L by Ayman, who served as cabin manager on the short flight to Jeddah.
This was a different aircraft than we flew from Dubai to Riyadh, but sadly the cabin was in a similar state of disrepair. One seat had an “inoperable” sticker on it and the blinds in every suite door were damaged as was most of the faux-woodwork in the suite. That said, the cabin was still very clean and the seat/suite extremely comfortable for a longahul journey.
Business Class also looks great on the Saudia 777-300ER with reverse herringbone seating:
As I settled into my seat, a FA named Kyle from the Philippines stopped by to introduce herself and offer me a beverage and towel.
We pushed back around 2:10a and were in the air by 2:25a. Parked at the gate next to us was a Middle East Airlines A330…very high on my wishlist.
Service on this short flight was limited. Meals were served on a tray with only two cold options available, a chicken sandwich or cheese with turkey. No menus were offered. Arabic coffee with dates to start.
I ordered a chicken sandwich which was quite unremarkable. Had it been warmed up or toasted it would have been 10x better. Also on the tray: grape leaves, carrot hummus, and sponge cake. Bread was also offered. At least there was freshly squeezed juice to go along with the meal.
The 531-mile flight flew by very quickly. Our descent had already begun by the time I finished eating. We landed at 3:40a into Jeddah, about 20 minutes behind schedule.
The Ground Stop in Jeddah
No passengers disembarked in Jeddah: the stop was only to pick up additional passengers. But we ended up being on the ground for over two hours, not pushing back till 5:50a.
Ben was able to sleep during the ground stop, but I was in a twilight zone, by this time exhausted yet unable to fall asleep. At one point there were more than 60 ground staff onboard, doing passenger counter and cleaning the cabins (including vacuuming). The lights were turned on bright.
About 4am the new crew came onboard and introduced themselves. Beverages were offered during the ground stop and I’m sure I could have had a snack had I requested one.
U.S. security procedures were blamed for the delay, but slowly passengers trudged on and eventually the first class cabin filled up (minus the one inoperable suite).
We finally pushed back at 5:50a. It was time for a nap…