Review: Saudia Business Class 787 Jeddah To Manchester

Filed Under: Saudia

Saudia 123
Jeddah (JED) – Manchester (MAN)
Tuesday, August 3
Depart: 3:45AM
Arrive: 8:20AM
Duration: 6hr35min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 5L (Business Class)

We boarded through door L1 at around 3:25AM. We presented our boarding passes to the cabin supervisor, who pointed us to the far aisle. For the most part Saudia has outdated premium cabin hard products, with their international first class product looking more like business class, and their business class looking 10 years past its prime.

That wasn’t the case on the 787. As a matter of fact, I’d argue Saudia’s 787 business class hard product is better than their 777 first class product.

Saudia’s 787s feature a total of 24 reverse herringbone seats, spread across six rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. These planes are quite new, so were in great shape.

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Saudia 787 business class cabin

I thought the cabin finishes were beautiful and understated, between the dark leather seats, faux wood consoles, etc.

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Saudia new 787 business class center seats

I had assigned myself seat 5L, the window seat on the right side in the second to last row (Matthew, on the other hand, was in 4L). As it turns out, row five has a misaligned window, so that’s something to be aware of, as you’ll only have one window, while most other seats have two.

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Saudia business class 787, seat 5L

Saudia uses the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond business class seat. This is similar to the one available on Air CanadaChina AirlinesQatar Airways, Virgin Australia, etc. It’s slightly different than the Cirrus-style reverse herringbone seats, available on Air FranceAviancaCathay Pacific, China EasternFinnair, etc.

With the Super Diamond seats, the TV is in a fixed position in front of you (rather than “flipping” out from the seat in front), and the tray table also slides out from the seat in front of you (rather than from the side console).

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Saudia business class 787, seat 5L

Generally I prefer sitting towards the back of the cabin, so next time I might select seat 6L, since it has a full complement of windows.

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Saudia business class 787, seat 6L

These reverse herringbone seats have shoulder harnesses you have to wear during takeoff and landing. Some airlines have these, while others don’t — I still haven’t figured out what about an aircraft’s certification causes this to be required (if anyone knows, I’d love to hear it!). For example, China Airlines’ business class seat is virtually identical, but doesn’t require the same shoulder harness.

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Saudia 787 business class seat

Reverse herringbone seats are fairly spacious around the legs, including while in bed mode.

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Saudia business class seat legroom 787

To the right of the seat was a large console which could be opened. Not only was there storage space, but it’s also where the entertainment controller, power outlet, and USB ports were located.

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Saudia business class seat storage

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Saudia business class USB outlets

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Saudia business class power outlets

Immediately below the compartment on the right was a monitor where you could adjust the seat positions.

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Saudia business class seat controls

On the aisle-side was an armrest that could be raised and lowered (for takeoff and landing it had to be lowered). What’s convenient about this armrest is that it can be opened and used as a storage compartment.

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Saudia business class aisle-side armrest

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Saudia business class aisle-side armrest storage

I was happy to see that Saudia’s 787s have individual air nozzles, which a lot of international airlines don’t. To me that makes a big difference in terms of staying comfortable inflight.

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Saudia business class air vents

Waiting at my seat on boarding was a pillow and blanket. While the pillow was fairly plush and large, the blanket was a bit small, and also very light. In general I prefer when airlines have proper duvets, though admittedly that’s a first world problem.

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Saudia business class pillow & blanket

Boarding was fairly efficient, and the cabin filled up pretty quickly. Within about 15 minutes all but a couple of seats were taken. Virtually all of the passengers seemed to be Saudi. Seated around us was a Saudi family of six, with two parents and four young children.

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Saudia 787 business class cabin

As we were on the ground I browsed the entertainment selection, which was similar to the selection on the last flight.

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Saudia business class entertainment selection

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Saudia business class entertainment selection

At around 3:40AM the crew came around with hot towels.

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Saudia business class pre-departure hot towel

That was followed quickly by Arabic coffee and dates. Moments later the crew even came around with refills of both.

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Saudia business class pre-departure Arabic coffee & date

The cabin crew on this flight seemed to be a bit harder working. The cabin supervisor (a Saudi man) actually did some work, while there were also two female Filipino flight attendants working the cabin.

At around 3:50AM the Filipino flight attendant made the welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 6hr20min, and our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet.

Moments later the door closed and we began our pushback and taxi, at which point the safety video screened.

Our taxi to the runway took a bit over 15 minutes, and at around 4:10AM we were cleared for takeoff.

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View after takeoff from Jeddah

Suffice to say I was tired at this point, after having flown from Casablanca to Doha to Colombo to Jeddah, with long layovers at each airport. I knew this would be the flight where I could at least get a bit of decent sleep.

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Airshow enroute to Manchester

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Airshow enroute to Manchester

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection. I’m a bit frustrated how Saudia has a decent variety of sitcoms, though typically only one episode per show. I decided to watch an episode of Fresh Off The Boat.

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Saudia entertainment selection

We hit some turbulence on the initial climb out, so it was about 20 minutes after takeoff before the seatbelt sign was turned off. At that point the captain made a welcome aboard announcement, apologizing for the delay on the ground, which was caused by a delay in cargo being loaded. He seemed like a nice guy, and said “thank you for giving Saudia this opportunity to serve you.”

While Saudia’s 787s have wifi, I couldn’t figure out how to connect. I had purchased a 24 hour Wi-Fi pass on my previous flight, though forgot to write down the code I was given when I had signed up. Most onboard Wi-Fi systems let you use a username and password to log-in again, but not Saudia. Oh well, I didn’t need Wi-Fi anyway, so perhaps it was a net positive, since I could actually relax for a bit.

About 25 minutes after takeoff the crew distributed menus for the flight, as well as amenity kits.

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Saudia business class amenity kit

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Saudia business class menu

The menu read as follows:

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While I wanted sleep more than anything, the whole point of taking this flight was to review it, so I wanted to stay up for the snack. Interestingly the crew didn’t dim the cabin lights after takeoff, but rather kept on the mood lighting. While I appreciate mood lighting for a daytime flight or when people are supposed to stay awake, I find it unnecessary and sort of annoying for a nighttime flight.

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Saudia 787 business class cabin after takeoff

About 40 minutes after takeoff the crew distributed a selection of juice, as well as bottled Evian water.

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Saudia business class mint juice

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Saudia business class Evian bottled water

However, the service otherwise was really slow to get started. So after finishing an episode of Fresh Off The Boat, I watched an episode of Parks & Recreations.

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Saudia entertainment selection

I know that Saudia has a dine on demand menu, but at the same time I saw the flight attendants progressively making their way further back through the cabin, so didn’t want to be pushy and demand my snack right away, since it seemed like they were trying to serve everyone in order (very few people went to sleep immediately).

In the end I only managed to order my snack about 75 minutes after takeoff. The flight attendant also asked if I wanted to be woken for the pre-landing meal, which would be served two hours out. That seems really long before landing for a short flight.

For the snack I ordered the prawn caesar salad, which was exceptional. It was the perfect portion for a late night snack. Saudia’s food quality is top notch. Since the menu listed “hot chocolate and cookies” I went ahead and ordered that, as strange as it is to have hot chocolate with a prawn caesar salad.

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Saudia business class snack — prawn caesar salad, cookies, and hot chocolate

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Saudia business class snack — prawn caesar salad

The cookies themselves were fine, though when they listed cookies and hot chocolate I had higher hopes. Furthermore, I could smell fresh cookies in the oven, so it was a bit of a let-down to get these pre-made cookies.

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Saudia business class snack — cookies

Matthew had ordered the toasted chicken sandwich, which looked pretty good as well.

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Saudia business class snack — toasted chicken sandwich

However, I’m quite jealous that he got legitimate freshly baked cookies, likely the one I smelled in the oven.

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Saudia business class snack — cookies

I have no clue why he got the good ones and I didn’t? Very odd…

Anyway, the food quality was excellent, though Saudia still leaves me confused. The snack service was slow to get started after takeoff, and I still don’t understand why they’re so lame on the beverage front. I understand they’re a dry airline, but it seems like they limit things way beyond that as well. You get a juice before the meal, and then aren’t even offered water with the meal.

In the end the snack was done a bit over 90 minutes into the flight, leaving me with under five hours to go to Manchester.

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Airshow enroute to Manchester

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Airshow enroute to Manchester

Before going to bed I quickly checked out the lav at the front of the cabin, which was similar to most 787 lavatories. One thing I found odd is that they only had tissues, and not actual towels. Come and think of it, the Saudia Lounge in Jeddah also exclusively had tissues, so I’m not sure whether they just use them to replace towels in Saudi Arabia? It seems strange, since drying your hands with tissues isn’t very effective (you get all kinds of tissue residue on your hands).

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Saudia 787 business class lavatory

I managed to fall asleep almost right away, though was indeed awoken about two hours before landing, as the cabin lights were turned up for breakfast.

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Airshow enroute to Manchester

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Airshow enroute to Manchester

Since I ran out of TV shows to watch otherwise, I decided to watch Silicon Valley, which I hadn’t seen before. It was surprisingly good, and fortunately Saudia had several episodes available.

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Saudia entertainment selection

While passengers were awoken two hours out, it was another 30 minutes before trays were brought out. There was a glass of still water on the tray, though otherwise no offer of drinks.

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Saudia business class breakfast — tray setting

The initial tray consisted of a small cheese plate and some fresh fruit.

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Saudia business class breakfast — continental cheese selection with dried fruit and nuts

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Saudia business class breakfast — fresh seasonal fruits

There was also a roll, which I was expecting to be sweet, though it wasn’t.

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Saudia business class breakfast — bread

Then about five minutes later the hot main course was served, which was an egg frittata.

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Saudia business class breakfast

The frittata itself was great. However, I asked for a cup of coffee, and was told coffee would be served “later.” As it turns out, “later” is 45 minutes later, once the breakfast service was complete. What the heck?!

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Saudia business class breakfast — egg frittata

About 30 minutes before landing, immigration and fast track cards were distributed for the UK.

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UK landing form and fast track card

After that mints were distributed.

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Saudia pre-landing mint

The crew began to fully prepare the cabin 35 minutes out, meaning seats already had to be in the fully upright position, shoulder harnesses had to be put on, etc.

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Saudia business class cabin view

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Airshow approaching Manchester

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Airshow approaching Manchester

The views of the clouds were beautiful as we descended towards Manchester.

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View on approach into Manchester

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View on approach into Manchester

We hit a bit of chop on our final approach, and touched down in Manchester at 8:20AM.

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View on approach into Manchester

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View on approach into Manchester

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Touchdown Manchester

From there we had a roughly 15 minute taxi to Terminal 2 at Manchester.

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Taxiing Manchester Airport

The traffic was quite interesting, including an Aer Lingus A320, Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore 777s, several Thomas Cook A330s (I hadn’t realized their presence in Manchester was that big), and a TUI 787.

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Traffic at Manchester Airport

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Thomas Cook planes Manchester Airport

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Etihad 777 Manchester Airport

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Singapore 777 Manchester Airport

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TUI 787 Manchester Airport

We arrived at our gate at around 8:35AM.

Saudia 787 business class bottom line

Saudia’s new 787s are actually competitive, with proper reverse herringbone seats. Saudia’s food quality is excellent as well. So aside from the Jeddah Airport being uncompetitive and them being a dry airline, they have a mostly competitive product on this plane. Furthermore, on this flight the crew was reasonably friendly and well intentioned.

However, there’s something about the flow of service on Saudia that’s off. For example, as much as I give British Airways a hard time for their business class product, they can at least do the service on a six hour redeye efficiently and like clockwork.

Saudia’s service was unnecessarily drawn out on such a short redeye, and I don’t get what they’re thinking with drinks. This shouldn’t be rocket science — water should be offered with all meals, and the first thing many people want when they wake up is coffee. A cup of coffee 45 minutes after breakfast just makes no sense.

  1. If you have a seatbelt airbag it is not required to have a 3-point seat belt. You can muse the “normal” two point one with included seatbelt airbag

  2. Prawns salad and hot chocolate? Just thinking about it makes me sick. Maybe i’m too much italian for those kind of things.

  3. For me, one of the highlights of business or first class is the premium wine and other alcohol. So no thanks to Saudia or any of the other strict Muslim airlines. I don’t care how good the rest of it is.

  4. Ben… What do you think about the table position of the super diamond seat? I just flew on the Air Canada 787 from Toronto to Seoul yesterday and when I put the seat in bed mode, every time I try to turn (toss) from left shoulder to right shoulder sleep position, my knees will hit the table. There is simple no way around it, it make it very restricting when you are trying to turn and toss around in bed. I have experience the same with other business class seat where your feet and leg is put inside a cuppy hole… The only seat that doesn’t have this issue is the Cirrus seat which is why I still think the Zodiac Cirrus seat is still the best business class eat out there at the moment for sleeping. Having said that I do find the B/E aerospace super diamond seat had much better finishing then the Zodiac seat from different airline.

  5. Totally agree with commend posted by Stuart. I would never travel a Dry Airline no matter how good the hard product is. Its one of the joys of travelling First & Business. Sampling all the fine wines and spirits, especially the Wines

  6. Hey Ben. About those tissues and the lack of paper towels in the lavatories… I was informed by an Air Asia manager (they too only provide tissues in their lavs) that the reason for this was that some passengers were putting the paper towels into the toilets and clogging up the works (whereas tissues generally do not).

  7. @lucky – technically, that’s not a TUI 787. It’s a Thomson Airways 787 (Thomson being the principal UK subsidiary of the broader TUI group, which is why the livery is the same…apart from the name, which you can’t see in your photo). Great report, thanks!

  8. @mkcol – I don’t really get your point. So far as I am aware, the future and the present are two different things. At the moment (at least as far as the 787-8 fleet is concerned – and the photo is a 787-8), it trades in the UK as Thomson. Quite why TUI think the re-brand is a good idea is a whole different story…

  9. Speedbird, I don’t have a problem if you don’t like to drink but insulting people who do is not cool or tolerant.

    Airlines should offer booze and anyone who doesn’t want any doesn’t have to have any. The issue isn’t even the lack of drink but the lack of choice.

  10. “These reverse herringbone seats have shoulder harnesses you have to wear during takeoff and landing. Some airlines have these, while others don’t — I still haven’t figured out what about an aircraft’s certification causes this to be required (if anyone knows, I’d love to hear it!).”

    It’s not a certification requirement anywhere for that category of aircraft that I am aware of (and I work doing crash survivability research so I am aware of quite a few; shoulder restraints are required in virtually all new light aircraft). It is just that some airlines are more proactive in offering torso restraints which are far superior to any lap belt only configuration. This is not one I would have expected honestly.

  11. Hello,
    Regarding the snack, it is written in the menu,
    Flexibility of managing your individual time in flight..
    I guess its mean you have to order your snack any time you like. yet crew should inform passengers about it.

  12. On behalf of everyone here in Saudi I’d like to apologize for Jeddah’s airport (I’m from Riyadh but I’ve arrived/departed/transited through Jeddah and it was horrifying even as a Saudi citizen…it makes Riyadh’s airport seem like Emirates first class lounge :P) and a new airport is opening in Jeddah (God knows when it’s opening…maybe in under a year?).

  13. Hi Ben..
    Prawn with Hot Chocolate? Hmmmm…. SAUDI Arabian airlines really that bad, huh.. Well, will try to avoid.

  14. Stupid who said don’t treat me like a kid because of no booze onboard, serving booze is forbidden in Islam , selling,, stocking, making, marketing, gifting all forbidden even to non-Muslim guests.

    @FRANKLIN, he praised this segment of the trip with the airline, there were few negatives, read again or did you just skim and focus on negative bits?

  15. Hi, this week SAUDIA made an oficial presentation for an strategic plan to become a 5 stars airline. Do you have more information about what the are going to offer and/or change?

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