Plotting My Next Adventure: Saudia First Class & RwandAir Business Class

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Saudia

My summer is already pretty booked up when it comes to travel, as I’m headed to the Azores, Italy, and have several other destinations I’m trying to hit up, including Mongolia, every country in Europe I haven’t yet visited, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit optimistic in terms of my goals here. 😉

While I love seeing new destinations, the core of this blog is reviewing new airline products and hotels, so I always try to squeeze in as many new airlines as I can. I have a period of about a week in June where I don’t yet have any specific plans, and I’ve been plotting out a trip that I really want to take.

Saudia first class to the Middle East

I’m fascinated by Saudia’s new 777-300ER first class, which consists of fully enclosed suites.


Award availability is exceptionally good (just about every flight has first class award availability), and for just 160,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles you can fly roundtrip first class from the US to the Middle East. You can transfer over those points from Chase Ultimate Rewards.

I’m fascinated by Saudia’s first class — they seem to be investing in their first class product and are now serving caviar and have an onboard chef, while they’re also a dry airline, and my last experience in their business class was… interesting.

While this flight would be impacted by the electronics ban on the way back, I might as well get one of those flights under my “belt,” just to share the experience. I’d plan on more thoroughly reviewing the outbound flight (since I’ll be able to take my camera onboard), while on the return flight I’ll have to rely on iPhone pictures.

But if I’m going all the way to Dubai and have to deal with the electronics ban, I’d like to at least tie it in with one other product experience, which brings me to…

RwandAir business class to Kigali (or Johannesburg?)

I tend to get obsessed with seemingly random airlines, and my latest airline obsession is RwandAir. They’re a fairly small airline that has a fleet of a couple of A330s, which they fly from Kigali to both Dubai and London. I always like supporting the “little guys,” and it seems like the airline is trying hard.

On top of that, RwandAir has one of Africa’s best business class products, as they have Vantage XL seats in business class on these planes. It’s also my understanding that RwandAir’s 737s are the first next generation ones in Africa, and feature Boeing Sky Interiors and free Wi-Fi for all passengers.

So I’ve been wanting to try them, and their business class fares are pretty reasonable between Dubai and Kigali, at under $1,000 roundtrip. So I’m tempted to book that, as I’d also love to visit Rwanda.

However, as it turns out they have even better business class fares out of Dubai, which take you all the way to Johannesburg, and you can even do a stopover in Kigali if you want. That’s over $200 cheaper than flying just between Dubai and Kigali. Thanks to MightyTravels on FlyerTalk for pointing out this fare.

The catch is that I have limited time, so I’m not sure it’s worth taking the cheaper routing. On one hand I’d like to experience their 737s, while on the other hand I’d rather spend more time visiting Rwanda.

Bottom line

I’m intrigued by Saudia first class, and feel like it might actually be a decent experience, which is why I’d like to try it. At the same time, RwandAir seems like a cool airline, and I’d also love to visit Kigali. However, I’m also considering adding another airline to the mix, maybe flying from Dubai to Johannesburg with a stopover in Kigali, and then returning on Kenya Airways, or something like that.

Of course I also want to try TAAG Angola first class, but I’m not sure how well that would fit into this trip.

SAA-Business-Class-A340 - 9

What would you guys most like to read about?

  1. Remember: Don’t bring any plastic bags in your luggage to Rwanda, they are forbidden. (Hmmm do they allow 1-liter paper bags for liquids when flying outbound?) That’s why I decided to get off the Brussels-Entebbe-Kigali flight I booked with Etihad miles in Entebbe and go overland to Kigali and then fly back on the third leg to Brussels (assuming they don’t cancel my return for getting off in Entebbe).

  2. We’re still waiting for the Residence review and you’re talking about doing another review?

  3. This looks great! Still eagerly awaiting the Residence Review like your other readers. Maybe this weekend?

  4. I think exploring Rwanda would be a more interesting story for the blog than a review of a 737NG flight, even if it is $200 cheaper.

  5. Maybe get to Jo’burg and then fly with TAAG to Luanda and then to Europe (Frankfurt Paris etc.) Both legs are operated by the 777-300.

  6. BTW, I have never been able to figure out how you do an international-to-international connection in RUH. Often times there is a door open at the end of the jet bridge that just leads into the secure international departures area, and I’ve seen people just walk out, so I’m not sure if you’re just supposed to head out into the terminal without any security rescreening? Or if there is an international connections checkpoint somewhere on the lower level — but if there is, it isn’t well-signed. I think if there is, it would have to be somewhere on the mezzanine level (you go down one escalator coming off the plane, and then down another one from there down to passport control if you are terminating in RUH). Fortunately it’s not a big terminal so it couldn’t take very long to search the entire place if needed.

    Also, while it will be interesting to see how the electronics ban is being handled, I’ve got to imagine that Saudia is handling it in a much more disorganized way than the Big 3 + TK are. Don’t bring anything more than you absolutely have to!

    Good luck!

  7. I would re-plan so I can fly Kuwait 77W First Class! One-way KWI-BOM is around USD 850 and then you can still fly RwandAir for BOM-KGL-DXB for about USD 1,200.

  8. Please go gorilla trekking in Rwanda. I promise to forgive you for not reviewing the 737.

  9. No interest in J’burg. Plenty of other stuff out there. I would love to read more about Rwanda and an experience in Kigali.

  10. Take the new LOT Polish flight to LAX on the way back and see if they’ve improved anything 🙂

  11. I remember last year when you flew The Residence. Or was it this year? In any case, there was snow on the ground.

  12. Please go gorilla trekking in Rwanda! I did it exactly a year ago and it was fantastic, life changing, and well worth the price. I booked through Gorilla Trek Africa” and had a private tour, and Chris was my guide. They are very reasonably priced. Chris will make sure you visiting the “VIP” gorilla group with the Silverback called “Mr. Special”. Katie Lowes (from the TV show Scandal) was in our trekking group of eight people, which was pretty cool. For lodging, the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge won’t be up to your standards, but it isn’t horrible, so you might want to spring for the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, which I hear is much better.

  13. Kigali all the way. As far as I’m concerned, I have much more interest in a Kigali article than a 737 review or Jo’burg one.

  14. FWIW, I found visiting Kigali and going gorilla trekking to be an extremely moving life experience. Plane travel, no matter how nice, is just a means for me to get to places like that.

  15. I vote you should spend the time in Kigali and save the time joburg personally isn’t a very nice or intresting city and their 737(tell me the last time domestic first class was fun/exciting) won’t be anything special so I say you save the time and visit somewhere you never been before.

  16. Please just go to Kigali and write about that. Would love to hear more about Rwanda.

  17. Hey Lucky,
    since you are up to rather modern First Class experiences including your first real life experience with the electronics ban, may I ask a favour?
    Could you please include the presence and type of other connections apart from 110V and USB Power in your following trips and trip reports?
    I did already ask in the “Ask Lucy” area about the possibility to maybe connect my mobile phone to the IFE via HDMI or other video ports and therefore using the IFE monitor to get over the electronics ban. There was no definite answer I am afraid.
    A lot of pictures from your trips have shown additional connectors aside from 110V and USB Power.

    For example in this review:
    Review: EgyptAir Business Class 777 Toronto To Cairo
    It looks like a standard LAN-Port next to a USB and a Headphone Port

    And here
    Review: American First Class 777-300ER Sydney To Los Angeles
    I think I can see Video Ports there.

    Maybe you could even check if those Ports actually work or ask one of the flight assistants? Could you connect your mobile phone so you could use the IFE Monitor with your mobile and a small, foldable Bluetooth keyboard? So that you could use the IFE Monitor and just work with whatever on the phone or watch Videos from the phone on the large monitor.
    After all, modern smartphone can run a lot of different software and enable one to be productive on the flight.

  18. @Bgriff As you said, you go down the escalators and follow the signage that brings you to security screening and you go back up again. As for those leaving on the departures floor, they’re most likely heading to what’s called the executive office, which is a terminal for high ranking officials.

  19. @lucky review porter airlines, they are a small canadian airline with great flights from EWR to YTZ or YTZ to multiple destinations in eastern Canada.

    YTZ is a really cool airport (its on an island!)

  20. @Lucky I’ve been to UAE so many times myself, plus reading your trip reports, that I kinda skip right over those. And frankly, considering their human rights issues, I have no interest in anything Saudi (or Iran, for that matter).

    A trip to Rwanda is interesting, but I’ll pass on the first half of it if it involves Saudia.

    On the other hand, Israel is quite interesting. Spend a few days there and report on the hotels, beaches and such.

  21. Fly with Saudia to Jeddah and from there with flynas to Dubai. Change to Rwandair for Kligali and stay there a week or so. Fly to Joburg and take TAAG to Luanda. From Luanda you can fly with SonAir (operated by Atlas Air) direct in a 744 to Houston.
    That would be a very interesting flight!

  22. Saudi Arabian! Their First Class seems to be very solid, so I would appreciate to read your review! 🙂 Are you gonna apply for the KSA-Transit Visa as well? When you could share the process, would be nice! (maybe including a review of the Park Hyatt Jeddah)

  23. DXB to MBA is getting downgraded to the 737 later in the year – I’m flying there for Christmas and unfortunately won’t get to try out their A330 business class.

    Look forward to hearing a report on Rwandair if you go though!

  24. Lucky:

    We were in Kigali last week and trust me, GO! We were blown away by it, not at all what we expected. There are some brand new hotels that made me feel like I was in Singapore, and we stayed at the new Marriott, which was one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed at anywhere in the world, obviously not what I was expecting in RWANDA! There is also a brand new convention center with a Radisson Blu that I think you would like. The city itself is also gorgeous as it’s lush green rolling hills as far as the eyes can see. Seriously, experience Kigali, it was absolutely worth it, don’t waste time on Joburg this time.

  25. Dear Lucky,

    There are so many great ways to get to Israel nowadays. In addition to El Al, United now flies Polaris on the majority of their TLV flights, as well as Hainan’s new flights between TLV, Beijing, and Shanghai. Korean, and Cathay also fly to Tel Aviv. Another possibility can be the MANY low-cost carriers, including Wow Air which starts flying to TLV from KeflavĂ­k in September. El Al’s Up, or Sun D’Or, as well as Arkia, and Israir, can be compared to JetBlue, or Alaska in terms of you get what you pay for. Israir, and Arkia offer international flights, as well as Domestic flights from Sde Dov, and TLV to Haifa, and Eilat. I advise not to go in the summer, as the weather is similar, although not as hot, as what you’d fins in the Gulf. Avoid Jewish holidays, such as The High Holiday season, Passover, Shavuoth, in addition to popular vacation times such as, Christmas week, and the “Yeshiva Week”, a time where many Jewish Orthodox schools have break. Those times are exceptionally more expensive, and significantly more crowded. The Pride events in Tel Aviv, are MAJOR events, and the city gets very into it, houses, hotels, and street poles are draped in rainbow. The Jerusalem marathon is a great event as well. If you don’t mind the prices and crowds, the Jewish Holidays are a sight to behold in Jerusalem. The western wall attracts tens of thousands of Jews at specific times, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing times) on the High Holidays and Shalosh Regalim (Succoth, Passover, Shavuoth). On Shavuoth, early morning (around 4/5 AM) the Vatikin prayer occurs, where the entire plaza is filled up, Tisha Ba’av also attracts a major crowd who mourn the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (The Jewish Temple, where the Dome of the Rock, and Al-Aqsa mosques now stand). In addition, Modern Israeli holidays such as, Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day, celebrating the liberation of Jerusalem in ’67). The dates of all the holidays occur on different times each year, in occordance with the Jewish calendar. I recommend visiting Jerusalem (a must), Tel Aviv (Beautiful beaches, amazing food and nightlife), Eilat is cool, although not nearly necessary, the Golan and Galil if you get a chance, and the Negev to see the dessert bloom. I hope you visit Israel soon.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *