I’m always on the look out for cheap flight deals and often this means trawling the internet for hundreds of different combinations of flights on differing days and sometimes you end up with a deal that just can’t be turned down.
For our trip from Bandung to Europe, we had a choice of flying out of Jakarta which is 150km away or flying to either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur first and then on to Europe. It’s actually quicker for us to get to Singapore airport than Jakarta airport when traffic is bad but the prices of these flights are almost always more than what it costs for us to get to Jakarta by minivan. So the toss up is between spending a little extra to get to Singapore where there are more flight options or getting a slightly cheaper first leg to Jakarta and looking for a cheap deal from there.
On the arrival side, I was looking for a flight to any destination and time and again Paris came up cheapest. I think it’s probably because there is a lot of competition on this route leading to greater capacity and lower prices.
I finally nailed down a flight with Saudi Arabian Airlines, an airline I had never heard any first hand reports on. The price was Rp. 3,200,000 or about $320 for a flight from Singapore to Paris with a 4 hour changeover in Riyadh of all places. I thought it was worth a try mainly because of the price and the fact that I’m a cheaparse.
The check in process was interesting. There wasn’t a long line when we arrived and we were promptly served by a lady who showed no expression which is nothing new if you’ve ever flown QANTAS. She asked for our documents and proceeded to check us in. When she saw Susan’s dress, she indicated that it wasn’t acceptable and that she would have to cover up meaning putting on some jeans and a shirt that covers the upper arms. That’s a little bit inconvenient but not unexpected. Just be prepared to wear more conservative clothing on Saudi Arabian Airlines.
The next issue we had was with Susan’s visa. She had the correct visa, but their computer system said it wasn’t technically correct and we spent a good 15 minutes providing more and more documents relating to our trip through Europe to prove that Susan was legit. At one point, I honestly thought we weren’t going to be able to board! Luckily they sorted it out and handed us our boarding passes.
The greeting on the aeroplane wasn’t good. One lady was checking boarding passes and was pleasant, but the lady on the far aisle was leaning against some panelling with her arms folded telling people which way to go. It was a pretty crappy first impression.
When we got to our seat, we discovered that the plane was half empty so I asked if we could move. The stewardess just told us to sit anywhere we wanted! Then when another guy came down, she told him the same thing so that in the end no one was in their assigned seats and people were sprawled out all over the place. The guy in front of us was on his own in a 3 seater and was already laying across the seats asleep with eye mask on and blanket covering him BEFORE we took off. No need for a seatbelt on takeoff — he was fast asleep as we roared down the runway!
Before takeoff it was a circus. Right up until the point we were catapulting down the main runway, almost half of the passengers on the plane were walking around the place searching for better seats and rearranging luggage. Staff just didn’t care. I wasn’t upset by this — I thought it was funny!
The seats on the the 777-200 plane were reasonably comfortable and had enough room for my legs to easily fit in which isn’t really the case on most low cost carriers. The entertainment system was a little old school, but still had a reasonable selection of movies.
Food on board was OK. Of course, no alcohol is served and when the woman behind us asked for a lemonade, the stewardess said that they didn’t have any. They did have some, but perhaps it was just a miscommunication. One interesting point was that they seemingly ran out of beef and one of the stewards was trying to foist the chicken onto me. I asked the stewardess if there was any beef left (they’d been telling the big group in the middle that it was finished) and she said “he wants beef” and walked off and got me a beef. It seemed like they just were sick of the Malaysian group beside us — probably because of language issues but who knows? The Malaysians didn’t seem like experienced travellers and accounted for a good portion of the milling around at the start of the journey.
The service from start to finish was odd. If you were grumpy, you’d call it unprofessional, amateurish and perhaps even ridiculous! But because I’m not grumpy, I prefer to take a lighthearted view of the service. I found it to be comical, pleasant and very flexible!
Overall it was a decent flight. Certainly better than Air Asia X and worse than Emirates but an absolute bargain at $320, I just can’t understand why they couldn’t fill the plan at those prices… anyway, I’d be happy to fly them again if there was a cheap fare. Saudi Arabian Airlines all the way!