Our trip to Jeddah was our first time to fly domestic. Shoegarfreeruby and I flew with Saudi Airlines from Riyadh to Jeddah and back. It was an eye-opening experience, especially in terms of traveling around the Kingdom with more locals on the plane than expats; compared to say, an international flight going to the Philippines where there are definitely more Filipinos than any other nationality. So, here are some things that surprised me during this travel and I'm sharing them to you so that when you travel on the same path we did, you won't be too surprised anymore. Consider yourself
1. You can fast track your check-in by using the self-service kiosks in the airport. The kiosks are touch screen (pretty much like an ATM minus the cash). Just enter your booking number or e-ticket number, press continue, check your name, and submit. I forgot the exact steps but it did go something like that. Anyway, it will print your boarding pass/es for you. Don't bother choosing seats. It doesn't work. (It didn't work for me and Shoegarfreeruby; so maybe it was just us.) If you have check-in luggage, then proceed to the drop-off counters. If you don't have check-in luggage, proceed immediately. No need to line up. Less hassle, yes! (There are also self-service kiosks at the international terminal of Saudi Airlines.)
|Your new best friend.|
2. You will encounter men who are dressed in white cloths, and white cloths alone, in the airport and in the plane. Do not stare! It's a perfectly normal occurrence in the airports here. They are the pilgrims going for their umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims any time of the year. These men are wearing their ihram clothing. You might be wondering why do they have to wear their ihram clothing in the airport... why not when they get to Makkah? Because in ihram, Muslims enter into a sacred state and they must enter this state before crossing the miqat or the pilgrimage boundary. Being on air, one can't be too sure if they already crossed that boundary. Saudia informs their passengers on air.
|Ready for a Kingdom adventure|
3. You will be asked to move seats to accommodate the requests of the locals. You know, the one where a woman would like to sit beside another woman instead of a man. Or a man can't be sandwiched between his wife and another unrelated woman. Or a wife can't be seated beside a man who is not her husband. These kind of considerations are something you probably wouldn't encounter in some other airlines going to other places/countries. Be open-minded about it. I will not lie though in telling you that one time, I was irked with this kind of request. I was being made to move out of my window seat to accommodate a woman who wanted to sit beside another woman (me) but not sit beside the man who was in the aisle seat. So the solution is for me to move to the middle seat and the woman will take the window seat and avoid sitting beside the man. I was annoyed at first because the window seat is my "comfort zone." I always make sure that I pick or specify a window seat as early as the booking period in every flight I get in. So being made to move out of a seat I chose months before bothered me. But, I gave up my seat because the discomfort is quite minimal to me compared to her. Good thing it was a short flight.
4. You will encounter people who have no social radar.
a. People who act like they do not see you or just don't care about you. It's fine really... when they do not bother you. But sometimes, they do. On our flight back to Riyadh, one big passenger was walking along the aisle as if he owns the plane. Ikaw na kuya! He hogged the aisle space like there were no other passengers seating on the aisle seats, brushing against their arms like they were part of the chair or something. Too bad, he was seated near us so he had to put his luggage at the compartment over our head. He had two or more luggage with him, along with a couple more bags held by his wife. When he was putting them on the compartment, he was banging the luggage on the seats where I was seated. I was dodging and lunging to avoid being hit! He was also unmindful of the luggage and bags that were put before his and kept on pushing them to create space for his belongings. When he was done, he shut the compartment close so hard we thought it would crash down on us. One passenger had the courtesy to open the compartment and arrange the things inside properly and with care. We saw other persons like this huge man in the other aisles but we don't have enough space to write about them here.
b. People who make you fight for your right in a line. An observation that is always noted in Riyadh by fellow expats is the non-existence of lines; locals push their way to get to the front first. We encounter this even when shopping; ladies would brush us aside to be accommodated in the cashier first (maybe they thought we can't do anything since we couldn't see beyond their eyes anyway). On lining up to get to check in on the plane, during the collection of boarding passes, a few men actually cut across us and pushed the members of their families in front. It was quite rude especially when there was even no 'excuse me' or request to do so. They act like they should be served first regardless if they came waaay from behind or not. It would have been okay if they asked to get in line first because they have babies or old family members with them. Those are valid excuses. But when people just want to get their way no matter who they set aside, ilabas ang pagka-amazona in line! Do not let anyone force you into submission. Demand a first come first serve service because it's what it should be. Makibaka! Haha.
5. You will not be thoroughly checked by security. It's surprising to see that the domestic terminals are very lax compared to the strict rules and regulations they impose when traveling abroad. Of course, domestic and international flights are different and it is understandable why they would be less strict in domestic. However, not putting your check-in luggage in x-ray machines is very new to me. When we entered Jeddah domestic terminal, we proceeded to check our luggage in the counter already. No x-ray whatsoever. It was only our hand carried bags that were put under the machine. Is that normal?
And here's an additional sign that you'd notice in other flights but for some reason, the number of children and their energy are twice as much in these domestic flights than what I've experienced in the past. And so...
6. You will find yourself in a huge playground. There were kids still playing and running and walking on the aisles and on their seats seconds before the take-off. Seconds before take-off. Flight attendants were more lenient on the kids. One kid had balloons with her and I wondered if it was okay to have flying balloons in the plane. (I guess it was okay but it was not okay when it was hovering in front of my face already! Haha!) I had a mother and a toddler for seat mates during our flight back to Riyadh. Actually, I shouldn't have a seat mate because I was sitting on the aisle seat and there was no one occupying the middle seat. A guy was on the window seat but due to number 3 on the list above, a woman with her young kid asked for my seat so I had to move to the middle. For some reason, the toddler was unruly. He wanted to play in the aisle and walk down it a hundred times. When his mom finally strapped him in her seat belt with her, the kid cried non-stop, screamed like there was no tomorrow (ear-splitting levels!), and wriggled himself free kicking my thighs over and over in the process. I was amused at first but it got to a point where the kid was crying for over an hour already, the guy beside me was throwing dagger looks at the mom and most passengers were already craning their necks in our direction to see what the little rascal was fretting about. I really felt bad for the mother because she cannot seem to reel her kid in no matter what she did. Good thing, this is a Saudia flight and not Alaska Airline. And the mother apologized before they disembarked so it's all good. At least for me.
|The JED-RUH flight|
You might see these signs in other airlines in other flights at one time or another but it was just amusing to see all these in the flights we took from JED-RUH-JED. As you might have discerned from our four years of blogging, The Pink Tarha ladies are pretty much optimistic and happy so bad encounters are usually taken with a grain of salt. Naks, patient and understanding daw kami. Chos. So, in any other travel that you'd do, please take lots of patience and consider everything a learning experience. Also, I'm not saying all these happen in a Saudia domestic flight all the time. Haha.
|Buckle up! :) See the clouds' silver linings.|
Now that the flight details and observations are out of the way, I can now focus on writing about Jeddah... humid, friendly, relaxed Jeddah. It is certainly a different city compared to Riyadh and we were tempted to consider relocating but a friend said na mas bagay daw kami sa Riyadh. Hmn, are you curious as to why The Pink Tarha is more suited for Riyadh than in Jeddah? Well, find out in our future Jeddah entries.
For now, have a happy weekend!