Monday, July 12, 2010

so THAT'S why they don't fly Saudia...

I finally made a trip to the main Saudi Arabian Airlines office in Riyadh. The reason being that the flight I requested was not available as an electronic ticket, so I had to get a paper one. Lemme give you a piece of advice. If you find out you can't get an electronic ticket, do not bother with Saudia, because for the money you will save with the cheap flight, you will be paying out emotionally and with your time instead.

After being informed by the booking assistance Saudia guy on the phone that I needed to go to a travel agent or saudia office to get my ticket, I asked my husband's office runner to help make a booking. In the evening I proceeded to Saudia head office (the big one off King Fahad near Panda Supermarket). If you have never seen a typical Saudia travel agent work, let me paint the scene for you: a Saudia employee sits expressionless and motionless staring blankly at a computer screen while you approach the counter - he types so slow you have to double check whether you are in real time or whether you have slipped into a slow motion wormhole - he gives you a number that reads 87 while the electronic counter behind him reads 70 - ten minutes later he is still in the exact same position serving the exact same customer - you realize you could be there all night. The office was just stuffed with people, a total mess, and the men's section was a million times worse. After hearing that a friend had waited six hours at that very office, I decided to leave and tackle the task the next day.

The next morning, due to a lack of consensus on where I could pick up my ticket, I visited three different travel agencies and a Saudia office near the airbase, only to be sent right back to the Saudi head office. Finally I resigned myself to the fate of sitting in the pile and took a number from the front desk. Once I got to the counter, it took another twenty minutes to get my precious paper ticket.

My advice if you still decide you want to risk visiting this office is: 1)get the lady in your life to go 2)make sure you have your passport 3)make sure you get a number directly from the employee as they have stopped distributing them from the dispensers 4)go in the morning 5)bring a book or something to stab yourself with, anything to relieve the boredom!

I have heard really mixed things about Saudi Arabian Airlines. On the one hand, some people say the flights are on time and have good leg room. On the other hand, I've heard that VIP's and HRH's that show up last minute are given priority over proper ticket holders who get bumped off their flights, and the planes seem to have more unsoothed toddlers on them wreaking havoc. And now I have witnessed the abomination that is their head office...hmmm....

20 comments:

alluringjosh said...

you should have informed me. hehe. i think i can help you find the lowest fare for your preferred flights.

Orchidthief said...

dammmm...ha ha...why didn't I think about that? by the way I love how you redecorated your blog! =D

alluringjosh said...

lol! thanks.

Om Lujain© said...

lol.. that is why you should walk directly to the person and pretend you own the place... (like all ladies do here) and get served before all those poor people sitting and waiting to stab themselves with something ;) I know its not in ur blood cause we Canadians are taught to do things in an orderly fashion.. but this is Saudi... when in Rome... :D :D :D

Orchidthief said...

Om Lujain I'm ashamed to admit this but I did try to do a cut in because I thought a manager had told his employee to expedite my ticket since I had been all over the city due to a series of miscommunications. Since I don't speak arabic, my hopeful imagination filled in quite a lot of what I thought he was saying to the agent ha ha!!...I was shot down and told I had to wait my turn, but at least it was just one lady I pissed off. Actually, the lineup was nowhere near as horrendous on my third visit as the first or second. So there you go. I have Canadian guilt about trying to pull that off and feel I was justly punished for it =D

Laylah said...

Haha, sounds familiar!

What you can try to do is go in the mens section, act like you have no idea what you are doing (helps if you have blonde hair lol)and..cut the line. Go directly to the front, act cool and confident and politely address the clerk and ask him for help.
Works 80% of the time ;)
Men will usually be too scared to address you let alone tell you to piss off..

Orchidthief said...

Really?! wow laylah that's impressive. I'm in awe of your skillz!! Last night I was talking to yet another expat that recalled spending 8 hours there once trying to buy a similar paper ticket (a shared flight between two companies). It is just horrendous. Hubster chalks it up to the whole thing being government subsidized. It's just the Saudi version of Air Canada.

Orchidthief said...

oh here is the official term - "codeshare flights", where flights are operated by one airline but sold by another, or ones that have one leg operated by one airline and the second leg operated by another. These are the kind that Saudi requires a paper ticket for and they cannot be issued electronically - they require paper tickets. And the paper tickets are only issued at the one office in the entire city! woo!

alluringjosh said...

you can also have a flight that's operated by two or more airlines but is possible for electronic ticket because the airlines have interline ticketing agreement such as the star alliance. basically, they use one airline as the validating carrier, send the sales to a back office (ARC) who will be responsible in distributing it to the respective airlines. unfortunately, this is only possible in big travel agencies and in some countries. then again, i don't think Riyadh is included.

Orchidthief said...

omg josh, are you a travel agent that actually knows what they are talking about?! *faint*

lol, actually I had a very good experience with a Yahyah at Oman Air. When my husband and I showed up at the travel agency I was shocked to see that he was addressing me directly and looking me in the eye, even though I was the one who arranged everything and it's the way it should be.

but that's another story altogether!

alluringjosh said...

sorry if i'm wrong. u can just delete it if you think i might create confusion to your readers, but that actually works when I worked for AMEX Travel. What I was just trying to say is that electronic ticket can still be an option even if the flight is operated by different airlines. First, u have the option to issue it separately if they don't have ticketing agreement and if they do, issue it as one one electronic ticket where one airline serves as the validating carrier. what's wrong? besides, as of 31 May 2008, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 230 airlines worldwide, and 93% of scheduled international air traffic, no longer issues paper tickets.

pls. forgive me if my idea is somewhat contradicting to yours. there's more to life than this. cheers!

Orchidthief said...

oh I hope you didn't get the impression i was disagreeing with you. I was just so impressed that you seem to know the ins and outs of how the system generally works that I felt like fainting.

From what you are saying, my need for a paper ticket was not just because the flight was shared between two airlines, but there must have been some other policy that was in effect specific to Saudia, or even to the specific flight I chose. In my case, Gulf Air is operating both legs of my trip but Saudia was selling tickets. The agents I visited all seemed very confused by the whole thing and I honestly think some of them did not know why they were not able to give me an electronic ticket.

The reason I mentioned the codeshare was just because a friend described a very similar story to me of what type of ticket he was buying so I thought there might be a pattern.

Pls update me if you find anything else out about why Saudia would issue only paper tickets for a Gulf Air flight =D

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Dentographer said...

to get it done as quickly as possible and not waste time,cut lines,act blondish and all that.
go to the airport,buy the ticket from saudia office there,its working 24 hours and its full of men,so when a woman approaches they priorities her and let her go quickly.
at least u wont have to carry the canadian guilt this way.

alluringjosh said...

apparently, you've got eyes still reading on. this entry is a hit! 17comments and counting. that only shows, you have many fans and the topic is so indulging. travel season at its peak. and the lesson -- get an etkt! it's more convenient to have.

after this litany-like comments about your post, what is important now is u have the ticket and all i wish you'll have a blast in your upcoming trip! and that is what we're all looking forward to hear from you. another hit entry? for sure!

AAF said...

I probably missed this info... why didn't you directly go to any travel agent?

Dhabab wings on Layla Road (new Jazeera super market) is really good. I usually deal with Mr. Shakir there and he is VERY quick and effective.

cara-blog said...

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burning-phoneix said...

The main rule to know when you fly Saudi Airlines:

You get what you paid for. :)

Ibrahim said...

Blog full of stuff, but I had to share the pain for the Saudi Airlines agents!!! Each time I pay a visit to their offices, it pops to my head a song by some rapper that I don't remember his name, singing "Slow Motion for Me, Slow Motion for me!"

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