Review: Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport

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I intentionally planned a fairly long layover at Riyadh Airport, since I knew I’d have to get some work done between flights. So I arrived in Riyadh shortly before 1PM, while my connection to Dubai was shortly after 6PM. Last year I flew from Colombo to Jeddah to Manchester, so I was curious to see how the Riyadh ground experience compared, and in particular how the lounge compared to Saudia’s Jeddah lounge.

The Riyadh Airport transit experience was super easy. While I got the sense that I was among the only people making an international connection, the process was still easy, and I didn’t have to even reclear security.

Riyadh Airport isn’t the most beautiful in the world, though it’s so much better than Jeddah Airport, at least until Jeddah’s new terminal opens. If you’re flying Saudia for now, be sure you connect in Riyadh — it’s a much better experience.


Riyadh Airport terminal


Riyadh Airport terminal

Upon arrival I headed to the Alfursan Lounge, which is the Saudia lounge used by all SkyTeam airlines. It was one level above the main concourse, and could be accessed either by elevator or escalator.


Elevator to Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport


Escalator to Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport

I was greeted by two friendly associates at the front desk, and pointed left towards the first class section. While Jeddah Airport has a shared lounge for first and business class passengers, Riyadh Airport has a special lounge for first class passengers.


Alfursan Lounge Riyadh Airport

The first class section had a beautiful lighting display by the entrance.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport entryway

Past that was the main corridor that connects the various parts of the lounge. I should note that the lounge was totally empty when I was there. That’s not really surprising, since the middle of the day is typically the quietest time at airports in the region. I think I saw one other guest the entire time that I was in the lounge.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport

Near the entrance and to the right were a few semi-private rooms with daybeds, where I decided to spend most of my layover.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport

It was nice to have a comfortable and somewhat private space from which to work.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport rest area

Next to the area with daybeds was the dining area, which consisted of both booths and dining tables with chairs.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport dining area


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport dining area


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport dining area


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport dining area

There was a decent size buffet, and frankly I was surprised they had anything on display over Ramadan daytime hours.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport buffet

There was a coffee machine at the corner of the buffet, along with a selection of Twinings tea.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport coffee machine


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport buffet

Then there was a selection of non-alcoholic drinks — I appreciate that they have Evian water, and while I prefer San Pellegrino to Perrier, I’m happy that they have sparkling water at all.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport drinks

They also have non-alcoholic Budweiser, which is possibly the most vile thing ever (though I’m also not a beer drinker to begin with, so…).


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport non-alcoholic beer

There were half a dozen display cases for hot food, though they were empty. Again, I’m not sure if this is due to Ramadan, or simply because this is a very slow time of day in the lounge.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport buffet

Then there was a selection of whole fruit and bread.


Saudia First Class Lounge Riyadh Airport fruit & snacks

There was a beautiful display with salad, fresh fruit, sweets, etc.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport food selection

While it wasn’t a huge spread, I thought it was tastefully done, and everything looked appetizing (I only had water and a coffee, since I was still full from the flight).

On the opposite end of the lounge was a separate room which was perhaps a bit more elegant than the rest of the lounge. It had plenty of seating with some drapes along the windows.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport seating


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport seating


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport seating

There was also a self serve drink station here.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport self serve drink area

Next to that was another relaxation area with what looked like Eames chairs, though they may have been knock-offs.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport relaxation area


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport relaxation area


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport relaxation area

Behind that was a business center with a bunch of iMacs, both along a high-top counter, as well as at individual desks.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport business center


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport business center


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport business center

There was also a selection of magazines and newspapers.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport magazine rack

The first class section of the lounge had separat bathrooms.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport washrooms

The picture used for “men” is a bit different than what we’re used to in the US!


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport washrooms

The washroom had a couple of individual stalls, a couple of urinals, and a shower room.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport washrooms


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport washrooms

The shower room was basic and didn’t have a toilet in it, though it looked decent enough.


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport shower room


Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport shower room

The wifi in the lounge was fast, and I managed to get quite a bit of work done during my layover.

My flight to Dubai was scheduled to board at 5:25PM, so at around 5PM I decided to walk around the terminal a bit and do some plane spotting. There weren’t many planes at the terminal — just a couple of Saudia 777s, as well as several flynas A320s.


Saudia 777 Riyadh Airport


Flynas A320 Riyadh Airport

At around 5:20PM I headed to gate 24, where my flight was scheduled to depart from. Just as I arrived the crew boarded, and 10 minutes later general boarding began.


Riyadh Airport departure gate

Saudia Lounge Riyadh Airport bottom line

While Saudia’s Riyadh lounge isn’t one of the best in the world, I found the entire transit experience to be pleasant. Transiting Riyadh Airport was easy, the lounge was comfortable and had fast wifi, and there were even some rest areas. I’d highly recommend connecting in Riyadh over Jeddah until the new Jeddah Airport terminal opens.

If you have a longer layover, note that Riyadh Airport also has private hotel rooms without the Wellcome Lounge, which could be a good place to pass time.

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Comments

  1. Normally there would be a pretty extensive food display available but they don’t put it out during Ramadan until after dark. As you saw, while technically one is allowed to break the fast during Ramadan if traveling (though they are supposed to make up the days as soon as possible later on), most Saudi travelers don’t seem to take advantage of that option.

  2. Bud Heavy NA?!? Curious whether it’s brewed locally or imported. Also, I thought that NA beer had trace amounts of alcohol ~.05% abv. Not sure how they could ensure there is NO alcohol inside that can unless it’s not actually brewed but rather beer flavored carbonated water.

    And then there’s the Tabasco. How is it that the absolute worst hot sauce in America has become the global staple?

    Lastly, I’m certainly glad for the sake of Lucky’s personal safety that he did not enter, nor photograph the ladies’ room. However, I’d kill to see what they use for a pictogram on that one…

  3. Ben, do you have the guts to transit over Jeddah on Hajj season? I’m sure it would be different…

  4. Do you always just transit through Saudi Arabia or have you ever stayed over? If and when transiting, do you need a transit visa?

  5. Plane spotting in this particular terminal (T2) isn’t that exciting since it is only used by Saudia, Flynas, and Skyteam. You’d be better served in the other international terminals which are used by all the other airlines. Terminal 5 is the newest of them all and is the domestic one, I heard the Saudia lounge there is the largest and best in the Kingdom (haven’t tried it yet though).

    If you’re ever able to secure a transit visa and venture out of the airport, please don’t write back about it. I’m afraid a lot of your readers will be disappointed by you returning safely and maybe even saying something remotely positive about the city :p

    You got me homesick!

  6. Well, while Jeddah may be a pleasant place all in all, it’s hardly possible for a foreigner to enjoy Riadh. Transiting is the best option, in this case.

  7. @aziz terminal 2 is Saudia international and terminal 1 is other airlines. Terminal 5 is the domestic terminal. No international flights are operated from there.

    Hopefully inshallah the old domestic terminal will be renovated and forms part of the international terminal.

  8. And aziz nothing is wrong with Riyadh. I am a foreigner or like lucky calls us imports, i am in Riyadh for over 2yrs now and yes its not all good but is America perfect no. There is no such thing as perfection. And Riyadh is safe. Never have i experienced anything bad over here.

    Also this one is for lucky. I felt offended by ur comments calling all foreign female cabin crew imports. Remember u are a German-American which means one of ur parents is an import. I am not fruit who gets imported to a country. An apology would be nice because u dont know me or any of my colleagues. And i apologize for the lady who served u in ur new york flight, we dont all act like this and there is no excuse for bad service. Its been bugging me to comfort u ever since that review and reading most of ur reviews got me even more upset. But from what i read i could also see u dont know or understand most of the things Saudia does.

  9. Standard Twinings Tea bags in a First Class Lounge (especially in a country where alcohol is not widely drunk)? Please! Can’t airlines provide real loose leaf tea or at least some premium tea bags (which mind you are significantly better quality but still relatively very cheap)? These Twinings tea bags are low quality, commercial, and mass produced. It is what you would typically find in budget hotel not a premium lounge.

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