Flynas, Airbus A320neo, economy class, AlUla-Dubai
Flight XY219, AlUla (Saudi Arabia) to Dubai (UAE)
Airbus A320neo. Flynas has pledged to buy 120 A320neo and A321neoXLR, a payday of A$11 billion for Airbus. Currently, it has 20 A320neos in its fleet of 34 people.
THE LOYALTY PROGRAM
The low-cost Saudi airline was formerly known as Nas Air, and points earned on its loyalty program, NaSmiles, can only be redeemed on its flights, flynas.com/en/nasmiles
Economy class, seat 10A. I asked for a window seat, and since the flight is only about 15% full, it’s an easy request to accommodate.
CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSION
The flight generates 0.319 tonnes of carbon emissions for an economy class passenger, according to co2.myclimate.org. Flynas says its A320neos reduce fuel consumption by 15% per seat, with half the noise footprint and lower CO2 emissions than previous-generation aircraft.
The AlUla-Dubai route kicked off in November 2021, the first international flight from the small, newly renovated AlUla International Airport, as the region, best known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, embarks on the tourism market. The route operates three times a week between Dubai and AlUla.
Passengers must show their vaccination status verified on the Saudi COVID-19 tracking app, Tawakkalna, to enter the airport and then again to check in. Masks are also mandatory at the airport. However, unlike other international flights I’ve taken in the area recently, there are no face masks or hand sanitizer offered in-flight.
For the first time in my life, my ticket says “First Class”, but the check-in clerk curtly informs me that there is no first section on the plane, and my ticket isn’t even not in the Premium class, which constitutes the first two rows of the aircraft. Crushed.
The blue padded leather seats are 18 inches wide, and like everyone else on the flight, I have a fight for myself. However, the seats in my row, which are one row ahead of the exit rows, do not recline, so the staff quickly move me one row forward so I can lean back and take a nap .
My allowance is 20 kg of checked baggage and one piece of cabin baggage weighing up to 7 kg.
Flynas’ bread and butter is its network of short-haul flights to 35 domestic destinations, although it does serve other countries in the region, including Egypt and Turkey. It is therefore not surprising that there are no screens, neither individual nor collective. That’s okay, because the first half hour of the flight is spent admiring the assortment of views of the desert and the two million palm trees of the AlUla oasis below.
Proving that it’s the people who make the biggest difference on a flight, I ask a flight attendant if there are any USB ports in the seat – as usual my phone is dead and I have to present my vaccination status when I arrived in Dubai. Not only does it plug it in in the kitchen, but it uses its own super-fast cable to charge it. “Anything you need, I’ll bring,” he declares, before rushing off, presumably to deliver a baby and catch a unicorn for a small child.
Food must be ordered in advance and costs extra unless you have a Premium ticket. As soon as we take off, the staff make a food deposit, but bypass me until I remind them that my ticket is marked as having a meal. When it arrives, the meal is a small bottle of water and a curiously grainy long white roll with a slice of cream cheese and a strip of hot cucumber, delivered by a crew member with the same aplomb as to drop a handful of 5 cents in a busker’s hat. The tea cart then rumbles down the aisle offering drinks for 5 dirhams (A$1.80) – they take UAE dirhams, Saudi riyals and credit cards. The same dismissive flight attendant is later seen wandering the aisles, asking passengers if anyone has change for a 500 riyal ($A183) note.
Voted the Middle East’s No. 1 low-cost airline in the 2021 Skytrax Airlines Awards (there’s more competition than you might think), I’d say the reviewers didn’t eat this sandwich.
ONE MORE THING
The flight is completely free of in-flight announcements, except for the recitation of the traveling Quran surah (chapter) on takeoff and a reminder to buckle up when we encounter turbulence.
A convenient connection that makes it a two-flight trip from Australia to Saudi Arabia’s most exotic new destination: although the low-cost carrier is Saudi, it’s still a low-cost airline . Leave your expectations for gold toilet seats at the gate.
OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE
The writer flew as a guest of AlUla, experiencealula.com
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