Introduction: One “Stan” At A Time
Review: Wingtips Lounge New York JFK Airport
Review: Uzbekistan Airways Business Class 787 New York To Tashkent
Review: Hyatt Regency Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Review: Uzbekistan Airways Lounge Tashkent Airport
Review: Uzbekistan Airways Business Class A320 Tashkent To Dushanbe
Review: Hyatt Regency Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Review: Dushanbe Airport Lounge
Review: Somon Air Business Class 737 Dushanbe To Dubai
Review: Saudia First Suite 777 Dubai To Riyadh
Review: Saudia Business Class Lounge Riyadh Airport
Review: Saudia First Suite 777 Riyadh To Los Angeles
We arrived in Riyadh at around 7PM, while our flight to Los Angeles was around 1:30AM, meaning we had about a six hour layover. In June I reviewed Saudia’s first class lounge at Riyadh Airport, so I won’t be reviewing that again. Instead I’ll be reviewing the transit experience and Saudia’s business class lounge, which I briefly checked out.
After taking the bus from the plane to the terminal we found ourselves in the arrivals hall. A vast majority of passengers followed the signage towards the immigration hall, while a few passengers (including us) followed the signage for international connections.
That took us down a hallway where there was one staff member who confirmed our boarding passes and then told us to have a seat for a moment, while he called a security officer to screen our bags. Someone showed up within five minutes, at which point a handful of other passengers from our flight got in line.
The security screening was lax, in the sense that there was a single officer supervising both the metal detector and x-ray machine, and he didn’t seem to be particularly focused on either. Once through there we proceeded up the escalator into the terminal.
International connecting passengers are let out by gate 21, though it really seems to be a makeshift setup. We had to open a door to get into the terminal, and then walk through a series of queuing “barriers” to get into the terminal.
Riyadh Airport is reasonably nice, at least much nicer than the current Jeddah Airport (though the new terminal in Jeddah should be opening shortly, and will be very nice).
We took the escalator up to the Alfursan Lounge, which is the Saudia lounge used by all SkyTeam airlines. While we spent most of our time in the first class lounge, I’ll share my thoughts on the business class lounge this time around.
Inside the entrance is the reception desk, and the first class lounge is to the left, while the business class lounge is to the right.
Right inside the entrance to the business class lounge was a dining area, consisting of high-top seating, as well as booths.
The dining area was huge, and was on both sides of the buffet (I’ll have more about the food later).
Past that was a business center with five iMacs, as well as a conference room.
Past that was the main room of the lounge, which had all kinds of elegant seating.
What a surprisingly stylish lounge — it even had Eames chairs.
Much like the first class lounge there were several semi-private rooms with daybeds, most of which were occupied (even though the lounge was otherwise quite empty).
There was also a play area for kids.
The bathrooms in the business class lounge were reasonably nice, though there are no showers in the business class lounge. Instead there’s a single shower in the first class lounge, so that’s one of the only advantages of the first class section.
In terms of food and drinks, there were a couple of areas with food and drinks. Near most of the seating was a drink station, with juice, coffee, tea, and dates.
There was a similar drink station closer to the entrance and across from the buffet, except it had packaged snacks, as well as more soft drinks and non-alcoholic beer.
Then the buffet was back near the entrance. The last time I visited the first class lounge there was no food outside, but I suspect that’s because I was there over Ramadan. This time around, both the first and business class lounge had an almost identical food selection.
There were small plates with fresh sliced fruit and cheese.
There was a tasty looking selection of desserts.
There was salad, hummus, finger sandwiches, etc.
Then there were six hot dishes, ranging from chicken to fresh veggies to rice to mozzarella sticks.
There was also a spicy lentil soup.
Lastly, there was a large selection of soft drinks and water.
Overall I was impressed by the business class lounge, and thought it was comparable in quality to the first class lounge. The only real difference is that the first class lounge doesn’t get as crowded and has a shower.
Our flight to Los Angeles (via Jeddah) was scheduled to board at 12:55AM, so we headed to our departure gate, #23, at around 12:30AM.
Due to US security policies, there was a special security screening for the flight, as we were expecting. To our surprise there was no one in line, but as we walked up we were informed that they were only screening for the Toronto flight right now (I guess they also get extra screening?), and were told to step aside.
So we stood to the side, and quickly realized the problem. Clearly the airport wasn’t designed to have “sterile” gates (where passengers could be screened at individual gates), so the setup was basically such that they’d only start screening once boarding began, so that passengers could immediately board.
At around 1:10AM the crew showed up, and around the same time the ground workers were running with blankets and pillows down the jet bridge.
Finally at 1:30AM electronics screening began. This was a super casual process, which I outlined in a previous post.
We managed to be the first onboard, and by 1:35AM we were greeted by the crew that would be taking us to Jeddah.
Saudia Business Lounge Riyadh Airport bottom line
The transit experience in Riyadh was painless, both in terms of the actual transit process, and also in terms of the additional screening for US-bound flights.
Saudia’s lounges in Riyadh are also decent, and there’s almost no difference between the first and business class lounge. Transiting Riyadh Airport is definitely more pleasant than transiting Jeddah Airport, at least until the new terminal opens.