Review: Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport

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Okay, so let me start by saying that I think you guys did a great job of managing my expectations of Jeddah Airport. Before I took this trip, a countless number of people warned me not to fly through Jeddah until the new airport is opened. So I had very low expectations going in…

Our arriving flight from Colombo arrived around 8:45PM, while our next flight was at 3:45AM. A seven hour layover on this crazy of an itinerary — what were we thinking?!?

All gates at Jeddah Airport are remote. Fortunately there was a separate bus for business class passengers, so there were only about a dozen of us on it, which was nice. I found the ride to the terminal fascinating, as we drove by a countless number of Saudia planes.

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Saudia 777 upon arrival at Jeddah Airport

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Saudia 777 upon arrival at Jeddah Airport

The drive to the terminal took about 10 minutes, and once there we found ourselves in a big, disorganized mess. While there were a few different queues, there wasn’t really much direction provided as to which line was for which passengers, and there also wasn’t much separation between lines, so everyone was just kind of pushing their way forward.

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Jeddah Airport transit queue

Eventually we realized we had to be in the line all the way to the right, which was for international transit passengers.

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Jeddah Airport transit queue

There was a Sky Priority sign, though there was no line to go along with it, unfortunately.

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Jeddah Airport priority transit queue… in theory

Once we got to the desk, our boarding passes were verified, and we were handed a transit card, without much of an explanation.

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Saudia transit card Jeddah Airport

We walked up the stairs and followed the signage for transfer passengers.

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Jeddah Airport transit process

There we found ourselves in a pretty cool room that Saudia seems to make available to all transit passengers. There were reclining leather chairs, some blankets, and even soft drinks and packaged snacks. That’s super impressive, as it’s not often you see such amenities for economy passengers.

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Jeddah Airport transit lounge

However, the seats were limited and they were all taken, so this isn’t exactly a solution for all transit passengers. Furthermore, the location seemed a bit odd, since I imagine hundreds of people an hour walk through the room; it’s not exactly a quiet area.

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Jeddah Airport transit lounge

Upon exiting that room we found ourselves in the main part of the terminal, where the security checkpoint was. As a frequent flyer I’m always eyeing the shorter security line, so I quickly walked towards the one on the right, which was much shorter. Then I realized that security was segregated, and that was the line for women — oops!

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Jeddah Airport transit process

Security was pretty quick, so within about five minutes we cleared that. Just past security was a huge sign indicating that no smoking was allowed inside the terminal. I’m not sure if that’s a new policy or just not enforced, because the terminal reeked of cigarettes.

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Jeddah Airport no smoking sign

Once through security we turned right down the hallway.

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Jeddah Airport terminal

After walking for a couple of minutes we found ourselves in front of the Saudia Lounge.

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Saudia Lounge exterior Jeddah Airport

At reception we presented our boarding passes, and were invited in, and also each given a refreshing towelette.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport entryway

Saudia’s lounge in Jeddah is shared by first & business class passengers, as well as elite members. We arrived at around 9:30PM, and the lounge was almost completely empty, which was awesome. The lounge was by no means anything special, but it was clean, fairly large, and had tons of leather chairs in good shape.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

The lounge consisted of one big room, so I’ll let the pictures of the seating speak for themselves.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport seating

Across from the buffet were a couple of PCs.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport business center

Back near the entrance was a smoking room.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport smoking room

The buffet was the centerpiece of the lounge.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport buffet

The food spread overall really impressed me. They had a huge quantity of Arabic coffee and dates (which was a blessing, since I was struggling to stay awake, and the Arabic coffee was significantly better than the machine coffee they had).

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport Arabic coffee & dates

There was a selection of finger sandwiches, cheese, fresh fruit, hummus, salad, etc.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

There were several desserts that looked incredible, including some local desserts.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

There were packaged snacks, including shortbread cookies, granola bars, chips, etc.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

Then there were a variety of hot options, ranging from curry to mozzarella sticks.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport food spread

What impressed me most was that the food actually looked pretty appealing for the most part, which I wasn’t expecting.

There was a good selection of tea, as well as an espresso machine, though I preferred the Arabic coffee.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport coffee machine

There was a selection of non-alcoholic drinks, including still and sparkling water (Evian and Perrier, respectively), fresh fruit juice, soda, non-alcoholic beer, etc. There was also yogurt and labneh.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport drink selection

Yes, you heard me right, non-alcoholic Budweiser!

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport non-alcoholic beer

I stuck mostly to the packaged snacks.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah Airport snacks

While the lounge was pleasant for the most part, I found the bathroom to be disgusting. The men’s bathroom had only two stalls and no urinals.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah bathroom

Unfortunately the toilets were gross. I knew bidets/hosing down “back there” is popular in the region, but to me it’s just so disgusting in a public toilet. The floors were wet and smelled like… well, I’m sure you can guess.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah bathroom

I went back and forth as to whether or not I should shower. The lounge had a single shower room that looked okay (but not especially good). On one hand I didn’t want to shower in the not-so-great shower room, while on the other hand I figured it was prudent to do so in the middle of 72 hours of flying.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah shower room

So I did shower. On one hand I was impressed by the Elemis toiletries. On the other hand, the water pressure was terrible, and the water wouldn’t get warm, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable shower. The shower room is also inside the rest of the bathroom, and there’s no toilet or mirror or even trash can in the shower room.

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Saudia Lounge Jeddah shower room Elemis toiletries

I spent most of the layover getting caught up on work while trying not to fall asleep. The lounge wifi was pretty fast, so that was good at least. As the night progressed, the lounge continued to fill up. By around 2AM, almost every seat in the lounge was taken.

With our flight scheduled to depart at 3:45AM, we figured we’d roam around the terminal a bit, so at around 2:30AM we left the lounge.

The Jeddah Airport terminal is much smaller than you’d expect. Then again, I guess it’s not really surprising, given that the flights depart from remote stands, so there’s no need for a big terminal.

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Jeddah Airport terminal

There were a ton of people just sitting around, many clearly trying to sleep.

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Jeddah Airport terminal

Then there was a large prayer area.

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Jeddah Airport prayer area

There were only a couple of dining options, so it would suck to have a long layover here without lounge access.

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Jeddah Airport terminal

At 2:45AM it was posted that our flight would be departing from gate seven. So we headed there, and immediately had our boarding passes scanned.

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Jeddah Airport departure gate

At that point we were in a “holding pen,” much like at Colombo Airport. The holding pen filled up very quickly.

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Jeddah Airport departure gate

At 3AM boarding began. There wasn’t a formal announcement, but rather everyone sort of just stampeded down the stairs and escalator at once.

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Jeddah Airport departure gate

At that point everyone was on the lower level, where it was even more chaotic. There was no real order, so everyone was just pushing forward. There was an immigration officer checking everyone’s passport stamps. For the case of transit passengers, we simply had to hand the officer our transit cards.

Even though we were towards the front of the (theoretical) line, we only made it on the second bus. We got to the plane at around 3:25AM.

Saudia Lounge & Transit Jeddah Airport bottom line

I had very low expectations of Jeddah Airport based on what I was told before my visit. It’s definitely not a nice airport, and the transit experience isn’t completely seamless, but overall it exceeded my expectations.

The Saudia lounge was functional, comfortable, and had a great food selection and working wifi. I do wish the bathroom and shower situation would be a bit nicer, but overall it’s a perfectly fine lounge.

So I guess to sum it up, the experience wasn’t good in absolute terms, but it was better than I was expecting.

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Comments

  1. That lounge actually looks pretty nice, especially in comparison to domestic lounges in the US. Color me surprised.

  2. Hrmmph…

    I never had it so “lucky” at JED. Yeah, Ben somehow had it easy.

    It’s a shame that there was no practical way for Ben & Matthew to have spent their layover in Jeddah; it’s a really interesting city with some great food. I miss walking along the corniche on a warm autumn night.

  3. “At 3:45AM it was posted that our flight would be departing from gate seven. So we headed there, and immediately had our boarding passes scanned.”

    I think you mean 2:45 AM….

  4. Much, much worse to arrive there and go through immigration (esp. relative to Riyadh). Just a total mess.

    Lounge seems to be much nicer than the partner one I took when I left ex-BA/QR.

  5. You travel all the way to Saudi Arabia, have the chance to eat some ‘fantastic looking’ local food in the lounge yet you chose biscuits. Are you that scared of a bit of culture in your life?

  6. That lounge looked better than I expected tbh. Though the shower really does kill it – is that blood in the corner?

  7. Last time I connected through there I had a similar experience. The terminal was pretty nice, but the toilets were kinda nasty and stank like urine, the staff were absolutely clueless – they took our passports and while returning them ushered us to the wrong flight, none of them spoke English and couldn’t be any lazier. The Asian laborers going back home on economy made a mad dash to the buses as if the plane was going to leave without them, no concept of a line. The low fare for the ticket made up for the negatives though.

  8. The saudi men can be very cruisy in those toilets, i love having my throat abused mmmmmmm

  9. Regular Budweiser is bad enough. I can’t begin to imagine how bad non-alcoholic Bud must taste like. :(+

  10. One thing to remember: Jeddah Airport currently has TWO terminals (three if you count the Hajj terminal). The one Lucky transferred at was the South Terminal, which is sometimes called the Domestic Terminal by locals. Though domestic in this case means it houses the domestic airlines, as it offers both domestic and international flights from the terminal. However, a few non-Saudi airlines have started operating from the South Terminal over the last few years as well, all of them Skyteam airlines (Korea, Kenya, and Garuda).

    The other main terminal is the North Terminal, which is where all the other airlines fly from, including the rest of the Skyteam airlines operating out of Jeddah (currently, just MEA). That’s why it’s also sometimes called the International Terminal as well, as all the airlines operating there are foreign/international airlines.

    For what it’s worth, the North terminal is marginally better than the South terminal, but not by much. All the gates there are remote stands as well, though loading onto the buses tends to be more orderly (people actually stand in line!). The dining situation is better too, as you actually have the choice between 8 or 9 places to eat at now. And the Saudia lounge there (which is the only lounge in the North Terminal) is also somewhat nicer. While the food options are the same, it feels more spacious and private since it’s 2 floors, there are more partitions between various seating areas (especially upstairs), and the dining section with tables is in it’s own room.

    The new terminal being built will combine all airlines in the new terminal, though I’m not sure if the Hajj terminal will be added as well. But still, this should be a nice improvement to what exists on the ground at Jeddah currently.

  11. you do realize the hose in the toilet booth to wash ‘back there’ is more hygienic then wiping ‘back there’ with just a tissue?
    the state of the hose itself is another story though.

  12. @Credit That was a really interesting clip – thanks for sharing. (Did that dissuasion take place in Saudi Arabia? Pretty eye-opening if it did.)

  13. The Saudia terminal of the airport isn’t great. But it’s 100x better than the foreign airlines terminal. Which is a piece of garbage. The lounge is slightly bigger but the pros end there.

  14. “Unfortunately the toilets were gross. I knew bidets/hosing down “back there” is popular in the region, but to me it’s just so disgusting in a public toilet”.

    If you are referring to the practice of washing, those who practice the same find using toilet paper disgusting, and as H.T. points out in the post above, it is arguably more hygienic. In fact, I think they should be applauded for catering to international travellers and including toilet paper as locals and visitors from many Asian countries wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there! I lived in Abu Dhabi for seventeen years, that’s where I grew up. They usually have janitor services clean up/mop more frequently, and this perhaps may not have been the case in your experience, hence the “smell” as you describe.

  15. Ah the old butt spray!
    Not too sure how the public ones can be more hygienic when its covered in water that’s already been up someone else’s you know what……

    The clean ones in your own house are pretty good for water fights mind. Especially if you have two bathrooms within reach of one another!

  16. Remote stands are nothing compared to some african airports. Khartoum airport in Sudan required the passengers to get their bags out of the hold by themselves. Although, that may have changed over time.

  17. Thank you for this article. I will be flying through Jeddah for the first time in June. I am flying Business Class, so it looks like it is easier to get through.

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