So, travelling with a baby is never the most fun part of a holiday!! Living in Saudi Arabia also means that unfortunately we cannot get back home to Preston without a transfer at some point! The good news is this does mean we have a multitude of airlines to choose from!! So far with Lucas, we have travelled with British Airways via Heathrow and Saudia via Jeddah. This Christmas we are flying with Lufthansa via Munich!
Here is my review of travelling with Saudia. We won’t be using them again when traveling with Lucas.
90% of the flights back to the UK leave in the wee small hours. Saudia’s flight to Manchester (via Jeddah) is no exception! The flight departed Riyadh around 11pm. This first of all meant putting Lucas to bed and then waking him after just an hour, poor thing! No sooner had we got up in the air we were on our way back down to land as the flight time is around 90 minutes. Lucas had pretty much just dropped off to sleep when we had to get off the plane. Luckily he stayed asleep until we got onto the transit bus to the terminal. This took about 20 minutes, packed full of people at which point Lucas woke up. By the time we had negotiated security and got the the gate area Lucas was well and truly awake (it was around 1am at this point). Our flight out of Jeddah wasn’t until 330am. Needless to say Lucas did not sleep on the airport as it was too busy and noisy for him and even if he had, it was another bus transit to the second plane. So its 330am and Lucas has been awake for 6 hours now and is well beyond the point of a good night’s sleep. We ended up getting the odd 30 mins here, 30 mins there on the plane but that was it. Somehow he managed to go the rest of the day once we got back to the UK with just his usual naps!!! Pretty amazing really!
It was quite deep and very slim, quite claustrophobic for Lucas, he did not like it at all!!! it didn’t help that it was also based just below the huge TV screen which documented the route, which not only emitted heat but was lit up for the whole journey.
Its quite depressing being 6 hours into your journey home but still in Saudi… Jeddah airport (the international terminal) was awful. There was one coffee shop open and that was it, a barely stocked duty free, no nappy change facilities and there were cockroaches running around. Not pleasant at all. However, we were pleasantly surprised on the return leg as we travelled out of the domestic terminal which had a Starbucks, a Costa, and a little deli counter!
Because the UK to Jeddah leg is international and the Jeddah to Riyadh leg is domestic you can’t through check the luggage all the way through. This meant we had to get our luggage at Jeddah airport and recheck it in to travel on to Riyadh. This would be OK in most other countries, but information and simple instruction aren’t a strong suit in Saudi. We had absolutely no idea of how to re check our luggage back in or where to go, we tried to ask a few people and all we got was a point and a grunt. We eventually found the Saudia check in desk where we explained our situation and tried to check in our luggage. At this point we got a very grumpy jobsworth shouting at us in Arabic, which of course we understood (NOT!) Long story short there was a desk somewhere else in the airport where we should have printed off some new labels and dropped our bags off (who knew!!!) i guess we should have read all the signs pointing us in the right direction (oh wait, there were none!!!!). So after 5 minutes of arguing in English and Arabic the very nice Saudi behind the desk took our bags and checked them in. Job done!!! The one bonus of this whole debacle was that once we arrived back in Riyadh there was no passport control as we had done it all in Jeddah!! woohoo!!! We still had to wait an hour for our bags though, so no time saved in the end…..!
In the air, amazing actually, really nice, really friendly and the air hosts/hostesses love babies. Very impressed. At the airport, both Manchester and in Jeddah awful!! Jeddah as just explained above, and to be honest it’s Saudi, so was expected. What I wasn’t expecting was to not be allowed to go through the boarding gate into the holding area at Manchester airport because I wasn’t wearing my abaya. I was covered, wearing long leggings and a long sleeved shirt but the Saudi woman on the gate would not let me through without my abaya. This would usually have been a bit of a pain, but fine. However, on this occasion I had Lucas fast asleep in my arms so it was near impossible to get an abaya on for obvious reasons. I explained that once I was through and Lucas was settled I would put it on, but she refused point blank, so very, very rude. The other airport official who was with her even gestured to let me through and she still refused. Cue, trying to get on an abaya with a sleeping baby in my arms and a changing bag on my back…!! Im pretty sure on British soil I would have been well within my rights to refuse this but not being one to cause a scene I obliged, but boy was I LIVID after that!!!! So… that was my experience with flying Saudi Arabian Airlines with a baby via Jeddah!! We will (and are) using Saudia in the future, to travel within the Middle East, and may even be tempted again to the UK if its the route via Heathrow, but certainly never ever via Jeddah again!!!