A few months ago, Saudia Airlines announced a couple of new destinations for 2022 and one of them was Seoul, Korea. Now, the airline has finally announced the inaugural date which will be set on the 16th of August. A Boeing B787-9 aircraft will be used to operate daily flights between Riyadh and Seoul under the flight number SV898 departing Riyadh(RUH) at 03:20 and arriving at Seoul/Incheon(ICN) at 19:50, and the return departing Seoul/Incheon(ICN) at 21:40 and arriving at Riyadh(RUH) 02:10(+1).
This will be the first time in almost three decades Saudia will operate flights to South Korea. Historically, during the “Middle east boom” in the 70s and 80s, there were commercial connections between Saudi Arabia and South Korea, and hence numerous South Korean construction firms expanded throughout the middle east therefore, both Korean Air and Saudia were carrying workers between both countries. But after two decades of this “Middle east boom,” both Korean Air and Saudia suspended the route due to lack of demand. Although Korean Air revived the Seoul-Riyadh-Jeddah route between 2012 – 2017, which did not work out well again, Saudia now restarted the Riyadh-Seoul flight as the kingdom gradually open up to foreign tourists.
With regards to the scheduling, compared to two other middle east carriers: Emirates and Qatar, I personally think the arrival time in both Seoul and Riyadh is not the best time. I am still confused with the airline schedule as the connection from Riyadh except to New York JFK, the flights to other destinations in the US, Europe, and Africa depart quite late in the morning(around 8-9 am) which means you have to spend at least six hours overnight at the airport for connection unless you have a stopover at Riyadh.
Saudia Airlines is a member of Skyteam Alliance which means with this new route they have to compete with Air France/KLM, Korean Air, China Eastern, and Garuda Indonesia for Asian markets. But on the contrary, it is great news for passengers to travel to and from Asia as Saudia provides one of the best fares both in economy and premium classes within the Skyteam Alliance network.
To those who are Skyteam Elites, it is good news with Saudia Airlines restarting flights to South Korea, as there are more options to earn and redeem miles at reasonable pricing. Though I am not still sure if this new destination will bring profit to Saudia since the majority of Korean nationals currently prefer to travel via the UAE, Turkey, or Qatar due to stereotypes about Saudi Arabia. I am looking forward to how Saudia will overcome all these perceptions and make this route profitable and also partnering up with Korean Air to expand codesharing services throughout Asian destinations in the near future.