I flew back from Medinah to London Heathrow airport last Sunday night via Jeddah. The experience was a nightmare to say the least! It was an experience closer to being prodded along by prison guards than being helped along by commercial airline staff.
First: the Saudi Airlines staff at the check-in counter at Medinah airport were horrible. Best way to describe them? Rude, arrogant, snotty. Very similar to the Jeddah airport staff if you've ever experienced that! They would not answer any questions asked of them and instead were more interested in the conversations they were having on their phones. They would operate at a snail's pace but when they were ready to do some work they would wave with their hands and yell "Yallah! Yallah! Hurry up!" On top of that they didn't have the courtesy to notify passengers checking in that our flights had been delayed by half an hour. Absolutely ridiculous.
Second: when it was time to board the plane, the Saudi Airlines staff were again operating at a snail's pace letting through maybe one or two persons every minute. Probably busy again talking to each other rather than doing some work! I was at the back of the line so couldn't tell. When they realised they had 75% of the plane still to board and now very little time to do it in they started ushering everybody on board with very little checking. They were so panicked at this point I saw them physically pushing an old Bangladeshi lady just because she took a second too long to kneel down and pick up her bag. Of course they would not push a Saudi or Western national like this. Absolutely ridiculous.
Third: when we arrived at Jeddah airport for the transfer, it was only by chance that a fellow passenger informed me and my wife that we might have to pick up our baggage and re-check it in. It didn't occur to a single member of the Saudi Airlines staff to inform us of this. When transferring between flights with any other airlines at most other airports this is handled automatically by the airline. It's fine that we had to do it ourself. That's not the biggest problem. What really irritates me is that it did not occur to a single member of the Saudi Airlines staff to inform passengers about this. All of the other passengers who were transferring got a huge shock when word spread that we had to collect and re-check in our bags. It was pure luck that we didn't all proceed to the second flight without collecting our bags.
Once we got onto the plane for the Jeddah to London flight we were bemused to be met with smiles by the on-board staff. It had been a good few hours during which the only emotions we had received from Saudi Airlines staff were sarcasm and disinterest. The ground staff really need to go through the same training as the on-board staff.
All in all: a nightmare experience! It's very unlikely I will be flying with Saudi Airlines again any time soon and definitely in my opinion worth paying a bit more money and flying with a carrier that takes customer service a little more seriously.