This past weekend I went to Jeddah with a group of girls from work. I will blog about Jeddah in a later post, but would instead like to discuss what it is like to fly within Saudi Arabia. It should 1st be mentioned that I am not a good flier. I pretty much am convinced that I will die every time I get on a flight- this can only be helped by either alcohol or meds, and unfortunately alcohol is not an option in this country. For this flight I was flying with a friend, which tends to help a little, and also brought along my long time friend Ativan to help me thru the tuff times!!
I was planning on carrying my bag on and was concerned about the liquid allowance that you find on any North American/ Europe flight. Apparently, this is no problemo here. Not only can you pretty much carry whatever you would like on- liquids do not matter. I walked thru security with a 1L half drank bottle of water and no one batted an eye. I feel like back home I would have been tackled for this. I may test this theory next time I'm home!!!
Women here go thru a separate security area then men. One might conclude that this is because we will be asked to remove our abayas- not so. You enter a separate area where a women who is fully covered swipes a wand over the outside of your abaya. Mine beeped several times, and yet no further investigation was required. Please note that none of this was doing anything to subdue my fears of the upcoming flight.
The airport here is similar to most airports anywhere else in the world. Starbucks, and several other eating places can be found. We seemed to be one of only a few other westerners on our flight. We boarded the flight without incidence and found our seats. It seems that they had seated us next to a member of the religious police and his family. Interesting. As with all Saudi flight there is always a mass shuffle of seat switching. You don't like your seat, or who you're sitting next to throw a temper tantrum and you will be moved. Its sort of like a game of musical chairs, minus the music. As it happened there were not enough seats for this man's family, and his wife who was next to me was attempting to hold a screaming 4 year old on her lap. Now the flight was only an hour long, but there is only so much screaming I can take. Luckily I had a caramel candy in my purse that calmed the child, and helped to further Saudi/Western relations. In the end they were able to clear a row so the entire family could sit together.
Normal rules such as turning your phone off, keeping you seatbelt on, seat forward, and tray table upright during takeoff and landing do not really apply here. I have witnessed passengers walking down the aisle as the plane is going down the runway. Again no problemo- to each there own. I prefer to be strapped in clutching the arm rest for dear life!! The rest of the flight went off without incidence and we safely made it to our final destination!!! We took a shuttle to our hotel, and ended up chatting with a group of western pilots that had just flown in from Iran. They did nothing to lessen my flying fears, and told me that they too were afraid of flying, and often held hands on the takeoff and closed their eyes on the landings. Really funny guys...HAHA!!