Help Me Decide How To Get To Cairo: Saudia First, Etihad Business, Turkish Business, Or…?

Filed Under: Travel

I’ll be flying the Etihad Residence soon, using a fare that originates in Cairo (there are consistently excellent premium cabin┬áfares for travel originating there). I’m super excited about flying the Residence, but also about my positioning flights for this trip.

On the return I’m hoping to fly Virgin Australia’s new business class from Australia to Los Angeles. They only open up business class award space to partner airlines within a week of departure at most, so I guess I’ll have to lock that in closer to departure, and am hoping to do so with Virgin America Elevate points.


However, now I’m trying to decide how to get to Cairo, which is a bit more challenging. I’ve reviewed a lot of airlines, so there are fewer new options than in the past. ­čśë

The good news is that the electronics ban doesn’t apply for flights from the US to the Middle East, but only for flights in the other direction. So that’s not a concern in this case, at least not directly.

The number one product I most want to review┬ábetween the US and Middle East is Saudia’s new first class, which they’re flying between Los Angeles and Jeddah. Award availability is wide open, so I’m tempted to book it with Korean Air SkyPass miles. The catch is that they charge 160,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket, and one-way tickets aren’t allowed.


So if I go this path I’d have to book a return for travel at some point in the future. I don’t have more plans to go to the Middle East at the moment, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’d want to fly Saudia first class without my electronics. Don’t get me wrong, I guess I could, but it just seems I’m best off avoiding it if I can. The other challenge is that the Jeddah to Los Angeles flight departs at 4:50AM, and I can’t get a visa to actually enter Saudi Arabia, so I might be looking at a very long layover on the return (Saudia doesn’t seem to have as many flights in the middle of the night as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, etc., at least in the markets I’m looking at).

Still, Saudia first class is one of the few first class products I’ve yet to review, and I don’t see this electronics ban going anywhere…


One other option I was considering is Turkish business class. I last reviewed Turkish business class over four years ago, and had a pleasant experience, but I feel like it might be time to fly with them again to see how the food, service, and seats have changed. Personally I have no qualms connecting in Istanbul, so it seems like a decent option that could also quite easily be booked one-way.


The other option I’m considering is Etihad’s A380 Business Studio. I’ve reviewed┬áEtihad A380 first class, and also business class on other planes, but not their new business class. Given that I recently reviewed Emirates’ A380 business class, maybe a head-to-head comparison would be interesting. Still, that might be a bit too much Etihad on one trip.

Etihad-Arrivals-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 1

So… which review would you guys most like to read? Any other good options I’m missing?

  1. Honestly? TK hasn’t changed that much at all. So it’s down to either EY or SV. It really depends, Ben. Because Saudi’s F class look so much like that of GA’s F – so then it’ll be down to their soft product. I doubt SV will have the upper hand compared to their neighbours or GA in terms of F soft product. EY’s dovetail layout on their A380/787 J have mixed bag reviews, so I’d personally like to read your take on it – plus, I’ve also heard that they’ve been going downhill very recently. Soooo I vote that you take Etihad to Cairo ­čśÇ

  2. Do Turkish! I want to see how it is as I’m considering connecting there on my way to the Maldives from Washington DC in the next 12 months. They have a lot of saver award availability with United too!

  3. From these options TK business sounds the most interesting.
    Although the new AF C class or Tunisair/RAM would also be nice to see!

  4. Lucky, your overall goal is to give your readers as many different airline products as possible. As much as the electronic ban is in effect, I know you can go one flight without your laptop. And I’m sure you can do stuff with your phone itself. Even thought It was four years ago you still review Turkish. You have never reviewed Saudia first class, so i would say that. It’s also not as reviewed as EY and TK are so I’d say Saudia first class.

  5. Tough choices. Saudia would be nice cause I haven’t seen much about their F product, and maybe you can test out the BYOB policy on them. EY would be great to do a side by side comparison of EK business. You’re right though, that’s gonna be a lot of EY on one trip. It would be interesting to see how they’d react and treat in you business if they knew about your connecting Residence flight on the separate itinerary.

  6. Book a Saudia ticket to a beyond destination with a forced layover in Saudia Arabia. Use that ticket to get a Saudi transit visa. Visit Park Hyatt Jeddah.

  7. You should be able to secure a transit visa if you’re originating from the US on a Saudia flight.
    Since you’ve already been to the terrible Jeddah airport, I’d suggest routing through Riyadh this time, and if you do get a transit visa, then the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton is a must see.

  8. Lucky, I’ve said this before. Saudi is a goldmine for stories. You’ll never encounter such corruption and incompetence ÔÇô or just downright wackiness. If you got stuck here for a few hours, it’d be a boon. Think of all the material you’ll have for the blog.

    It’s not even a close race. It has to be Saudia.

  9. @Malc not sure what you’re basing this on, but when it comes to wackiness and corruption, he doesn’t need to leave the US.

  10. Lufthansa coach. ­čśÇ

    Just kidding, we know you couldn’t hack it in coach that long. Etihad Business Studios.

  11. Why not AF via CDG and take the new AF 787 CDG – CAI? Though you’d have to take A380 AF J which is less than ideal.

  12. Would love to hear your review of Ethiad business studio. They have very competitive business fares from time-to-time routed through AUH to get to Asian cities. Have thought about it, but CX usually gets my $ at the end of the day given how easy it is to acquire Alaska miles at a reasonable $.

  13. Hey Ben, How about trying out Ethiopian from JFK/EWR to Addis Ababa connecting to Cairo.
    This way you would review an airline for which review is long awaited.

  14. I think you should review Etihad business studio. We will enjoy the review and you will enjoy the flight much more than being stuck on Saudia. The seat looks comfortable but …. it’s Saudia

  15. There’s no such thing as too much Etihad! I pick would be a review of the A380 business studio.

  16. LAX to FCO in AZ J (remember? they do have wi-fi and great food) but you’ll have to settle for the usual Y seat with a blocked middle on the FCO to CAI bit…

    C’mon Ben… an AZ review is long overdue… ­čśë

  17. Saudia First Class for sure, you’ll get to review another aircraft on the JED-CAI route, maybe one of the regional A330-300s which have a nice business class cabin. Flown the Etihad A380 in J. Not so fun, the meal service itself was a true disappointment.

  18. Personally I’m not holding my breath waiting for a review of any class of Saudi. EY for sure.

  19. Why not try Aegean Airlines, because you credited some miles to their programme months ago when you flew SAA… mayby a way for the gold their goldstatus to And it’s a airline Cool to my opinion.

  20. I agree with James too, that sounds great LY and then the Paper airline Air Sinai to CAI, would be awesome to have a review on both, highly in demand!

  21. Etihad Business on the A380. It is the world’s best business class -although probably a disappointment after the Residence

  22. You booked round trip out of Cairo, right? You have a return ticket BKK-CAI, right? So use it! You’ll need to fly from Australia to BKK though. And fly Saudia round trip as well.

  23. So this might be crazy but you might like this routing as it is some airlines you want to try

    AA or B6 LAX-JFK (or UA p.s. to EWR)
    TAAG Angola- GIG-LAD

    Then two options
    Kenya Airways LAD-NBO
    EgyptAir NBO-CAI

    Ethiopian LAD-ADD
    EgyptAir ADD-CAI

  24. How about CX A359 from YVR-HKG and then Ethiopian from HKG-CAI via ADD? Or take advantage of the great business class fares out of YVR to HKG on AA and then just the Ethiopian review?

  25. If limited to the options you provided, I’d be most interested in an EY Studio Class review to compare to your recent EK business class review.

  26. Not too bad on layover for connecting Saudi flights to Colombo, Tunis, or even Bahrain (Gulf Air) FWIW

  27. My first reaction was, as others have suggested, El Al to Tel Aviv and then Air Sinai to Cairo (with an overnight at the Nile Ritz Carlton!!).

    Otherwise, give poor old Saudia another go and get a transit visa. Jeddah does have its charms.

  28. For me one of the great joys of international first class is the great wine. Therefore I’d never waste flying Saudia first.

  29. @Aziz, I’m basing it on having lived in Saudi for five years. But you make a good point about the US.

  30. I’m flying Etihad A380 Business in October and I would love to hear you’re opinion about it so pls fly Etihad!!

  31. @ Supropal — Hah, like the idea, but that’s way out of the way. Am hoping to try Hong Kong Airlines soon from YVR to HKG, so will try to do the CX A350 in the other direction.

  32. @ Brad B — Really want to do TAAG, but think I’ll save it for another trip. That’s too crazy even for me. Appreciate the idea, though!

  33. @ Kim Menten — That would be fun! Though I do have a hard time getting excited about an airline that just has intra-Europe business class…

  34. @ Ram — Flew the Royal Air Maroc 787 a few months ago and really enjoyed it, but would like to try something new.

  35. @ Aziz — I’d really like to actually visit Saudi Arabia, but called the consulate here in the US and they insisted it wasn’t possible to secure a transit visa. ­čÖü I know you linked to articles last time about it, but if anyone has any ideas about how to approach this in practice, I’d love to hear it. I’d ideally save flying Saudia for a time where I could actually visit Saudi Arabia.

  36. Did you consider to take new direct LAX Warsaw connection by LOT?
    They are using Dreamliner so it could be nice ?

  37. It was on your “random airline” list from last year and I think it is a great time to try it out if you don’t mind a couple connections for the sake of your readers. If you can position yourself to Montreal, try out Air Algerie on their relatively new A330 business class. Finding information on them is nearly impossible from my search, but the limited information (including your short mention of them in the article) makes it look like a hard product worth trying. Then take the connection on Egypt Air Business class on their 737 for a regional review. Orrrrrr, if you are really adventurous and want to knock another one from that list in your article, you could take Tunis Air which actually flies their A330 from Algiers to Tunis (even though it is such a short flight) on certain dates/times, but then its an A320 to Cairo.

    If sticking with the three options you mentioned, I am really intrigued by Saudia F, but feel like Etihad Biz might be a more helpful review for most of your readers given it is a much more likely route for most of us to take.

  38. @Lucky I would suggest reaching out to the airlines, they’re very responsive on the @saudia_care twitter handle, if not then I may try and help you out somehow.

  39. HI Lucky,

    You do a great job reviewing a whole bunch of new airlines and the reviews are fun to read. But, to add to other comments, would also be good to focus on airlines most of your readers would be most likely to fly. Not many are interested in Saudia. We’d have much more interest in the Etihad business studio or Turkish; both are excellent options.

    Tiffany was on Swiss recently. You’ve done plenty of LH. Only other simple option would be Air France. Other than that, I think Turkish and Etihad are the best options.

    Looking forward to this!

  40. We just came back from Cairo and Luxor. I would highly recommend Turkish airlines. They were the best!!
    Hope you have a good trip!!

  41. Brussels Airlines from Toronto, then EgyptAir 737 from Brussels to Cairo. Would love to see a Brussels Airlines review

  42. I flew TK business last month ORD-IST and wasn’t really impressed. Catering was nice, but the plane seemed very dated. I was looking forward to the TK lounge, and while it was impressive, it was incredibly difficult getting a seat.

    Consider this another vote for Saudia.

  43. There are some incoming SV flights you could use to connect to the JED-LAX flight, though many of them don’t operate daily so might be hard to line up the days. But for example, flights from COK, MAA, KWI, HBE, MNL, BLR, CMB, DXB, AMM, BAH, CGK, ISB and CAI all arrive in JED on at least some days of the week between midnight and 2am.

    (I definitely would not cut a connection any closer than that as I have no idea what would happen if you missed a connection in JED without a visa, but I can’t imagine it would be pleasant.)

  44. I’d book SV F, and if you can get the return to be sometime after the end of October, supposedly that’s when the electronics ban will be done.

  45. EY 787 J is the best J I have ever flown. Would be far more interested to see a head to head comparison with EK and QR J than a crap airline like Saudia that none of us will ever fly.

  46. Having just experienced a crap experience on Qatar J (CPT-DOH-LAX) it would be nice to hear about Etihad J. EK the other way was good but at the old AS redemption pricing – the new pricing is ridiculous so will not fly EK again.

    However, would much rather hear about Ethiopian 787 flights in J. Have friends (very small people) who flew Ethiopian Y (YYZ-CPT) who said it was OK and am tempted but need to hear more about J.

  47. Etihad Business on the A380 (which I guess you’ve decided to skip the return on as part of your R/T to book the Residence).

  48. Avoid SV. Even though the 16hr flight is probably the fastest option since Egypt is only two hours from JED. However, JED airport is the shittiest airport on Earth. 5min in that airport will ruin your perspective of the rich country. Perhaps on the next time they would have opened the huge new airport just next to the shitty current one.

  49. I would go with AF – you will have a (in my opinion) a very good product, despite you`re travelling with handluaggage only. Air France 787 Business reviews are even rare, and not much are done for CDG-CAI routes. Maybe you`ll go for it!
    Personally I would book this, or alternatively BA via LHR (Also operating 787 on CAI-routes)

    More crazy would be MEA via Lebanon ­čśÇ But this would be way too strange ….

  50. EY Business Studio !!!

    IMHO, most of the people will be more interested in a review of an airline that they would maybe flight one day and which have a huge network, that in a “no-name” airline we have little chance to experience.

  51. Or, how about you fly AF La Premiere to Paris (from either LAX or JFK, and if from JFK then take Virgin America LAX-JFK), then Aegean to Athens and then Air Leisure to Cairo (although not sure if they fly scheduled).

    Or you could take a flight to ATH on Air Transat from YYZ or YUL if they have started their seasonal flights on the routes, and then Aegean to Cairo.

    My point is you should really fly Aegean. I have flown them and they are great, and while you’re at it you could make a brief visit to Greece (unless it is in your plans for yout big European trip this summer, which it should be in).

  52. Lucky I think a review of the Etihad A380 or 787 flagship business class is the best choice as it is very popular and it will help,people in comparing and booking future trips as not many people fly Saudia first class.

  53. This is really out of the blue, but I really hope to read your review of these 4 products:

    British Airways B787-9 First
    Air France B777 La Premiere
    Singapore Airlines B77W First
    Malaysia Airlines A330 Business

  54. Ethiad business. First class without champagne is not nearly as nice as business class with. Just sayin’…

  55. How about RwandAir from LGW to KGL, followed with KGL-ADD-CAI on Ethiopian or KGL-NBO-CAI on Kenya. RwandAir’s one-way J LGW-KGL for 30 May is currently priced at around $1,500.

  56. Would really like to see a Turkish review. In terms of number of destinations, they are the largest airline out there. Many times I find myself thinking how they do it. Plus they have one of the best catering up in the sky which is something I would like to read more about. So my vote goes to Turkish and and if possible, Istanbul airport review.

  57. Fly LO, LAX-WAW, connect to TK flight and go via IST. I believe Turkish operates 777 between Istanbul and Cairo. And LOT’s offering is really good nowadays.

  58. Fly with Meridiana from JFK to Naples and from there to Milan-Malpensa. From Malpensa you can fly with Eritrean Airlines on their fifth freedom route to Cairo. That won’t be the most luxurious trip, but a very special one.

  59. IIRC, AF are flying their only 787 between CDG and CAI. The new Business class should be worth a review!

  60. No joy in transiting through the Kingdom of Darkness :p No alchoholic beverages and flight crews that obviously can’t get hired into Oman, UAE or Qatar.

  61. I know it’s not a lie-flat… and I understand Ben if you come from the us or anywhere else from such a long distance it’s a pain. Kim

  62. I realize you usually don’t announce yourself as a travel reviewer to the places you stay, but have you thought of doing that to get a hotel to sponsor your trip as a business case for a visa to SA?

  63. Well if you have a layover in Jeddah for more than 3 hours don’t book Saudia. I’m from Jeddah and the new airport is not opening yet. Unfortunately the current airport is one of the worst airports I’ve been to. Saudia first class is great but as I said if you have to stay in the airport, book EY

  64. Would be good to get a proper EY Business studio review IMO.

    And to also check out VA J, even on other routes if award space is hard to find.

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