In this review we will check out the Saudia Alfursan business class lounge in the south terminal of Jeddah International Airport.
After an excellent flight in business class on the Saudia Airbus A320 with all-lie flat seats I arrived at Jeddah International Airport. It marked my second visit to this major Saudi Arabian airport – and a lot has changed since my last visit a year prior.
Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, as it is fully called, is working hard on the completion of a new terminal which is simply called Terminal 1. Once fully finished, this terminal will replace the ageing North and South terminal currently in use.
The South Terminal is exclusively used by Saudia and some second-tier Saudi carriers, while the unconnected North Terminal at the other side of the airport is used by all other foreign airlines.
A first glimpse
Some foreign airlines and a handful of Saudia flights have currently already shifted to the new Terminal 1. This includes Saudia flights to and from Athens, from where I had just arrived. As my onward flight to Kuala Lumpur was however still departing from the South Terminal, I had to somehow change terminals.
After I disembarked the airplane using a jet bridge it was a long trek towards arrivals, where I was told that just before Saudi immigration there would be a separate pathway towards the transfer area for international connections.
My first impressions of the new airport were positive. It seemed to be spacious, modern and bright, although it was clearly still under construction and far from completely finished.
At the transfer area there was a single baggage screening point and X-ray machine you have to pass through before being led again into the main departure hall. Note that you are forbidden to carry products forbidden under Saudi law in your hand baggage such as alcohol, pornography and pork products. This even counts for transit passengers who buy such products in an airport duty free shop and are solely changing flights.
If you plan to bring along a bottle or wine or anything similar and are transiting through a Saudi airport – make sure that you place the product in your checked luggage and not in your carry-on.
As there were no queues at the security checkpoint I was through in half a minute. Unfortunately, I was denied access to the new Saudia lounge in Terminal 1 as the receptionist said that I could only access the lounge in the South Terminal as my flight was departing from there and there are only a limited number of inter-terminal transit buses.
She told me I had to make my way to gate A30c – a bus gate on the lower level of the new terminal which is currently exclusively used by Saudia to transfer transit passengers to the old South Terminal.
Long wait at A30c
There were no Saudia employees to be seen at gate A30c, so I inquired with some staffers standing at a nearby gate if this was indeed the location for the transit bus to the south terminal. After checking the boarding pass of my onward flight to Kuala Lumpur they indeed confirmed that I was standing at the right place.
When I inquired when the transit bus would come they gave the typical answer “soon”. Knowing the Arab world and its “Inshallah” mentality (which means “God Willing/if God wills” – a phrase which can be used in a wide variety of circumstances) I knew I was in for a fairly long wait.
Fortunately a small crowd of fellow passengers slowly formed. It turned out that there were a bunch of other Western travellers heading to Kuala Lumpur who came of the same Athens flight as me, all of us having found the same great business class flight deal. The time went by fairly fast discussing Saudi Arabia, Kuala Lumpur and our previous travel adventures. Before I knew it an airport bus stopped at gate A30c to bring us to the South Terminal.
For those who have never been to Jeddah’s South Terminal before: it is a hellhole. I’m not exaggerating. The average airport in a Third World country in Africa gives a far better experience than this old, overcrowded terminal. The terminal consists out of one duty free shop, two or three cafes and just five bus gates.
As Jeddah Airport is a major hub for Saudia with flights departing to four continents, it means that the small terminal hall is way beyond its original capacity. The few benches are all occupied by a few lucky passengers, which means that everyone else has to stand or sit on the ground.
This is seriously not an airport I would like to transit through if I was an economy class passenger without lounge access. Especially not if you have an overnight layover – which is not uncommon the way how Saudia structures its timetables with many late night departures. Fortunately, the new terminal will vastly improve the situation – but as long as this is not fully functional there are still lots of flights using the old South Terminal. Be warned!
South Terminal business class lounge
The Saudia Alfursan business class lounge is weirdly located almost within the duty free shop of the terminal. If you have a business class ticket on Saudia, or hold Sky Team Elite Plus status as an economy passenger, you have access to this lounge.
Note that this is the only lounge in the South Terminal and that it does not accept lounge membership programmes such as Priority Pass. According to the Saudia website, other passengers can however buy access into the lounge for 126 SAR (31 EUR). If you ask me, that is a no-brainer given how dire the South Terminal is.
The Alfursan lounge
To set expectations straight right from the start: the Alfursan lounge is nothing particularly special, but it is so much better than waiting in the overcrowded terminal. Compared to the sheer squalor of the gate area, the Alfursan lounge is an oasis of tranquility and quietness.
The lounge has roughly a square shape and is centred around a large buffet area in the middle. Around the buffet there are dozens of dining tables, seats and sofas.
The Alfursan lounge has some weird purple mood lighting as well as some large windows overlooking the airport. It being night, there was unfortunately nothing to be seen outside. As I never visited this lounge during daylight hours I therefore don’t know if during the day there are some good planespotting opportunities over the tarmac or whether the views are only towards some other airport buildings.
On both of my visits to the Alfursan lounge I thought that the quality of the buffet is actually quite good. There are always a few hot dishes available, as well as multiple sandwiches, snacks and desserts. It is certainly a lot better than your average lounge in Europe.
The drinks selection is decent enough. The coffee machines make a decent brew to keep you awake at night, you can get a glass of fresh juice from large canisters, and the open fridges are well stocked with soft drinks.
It being Saudi Arabia, you can of course also get some Arabic coffee and dates. Unfortunately, being a dry country also means that no alcohol is served in the lounge. Don’t be mistaken by the cans of Budweiser next to the sodas! This is the undrinkable non-alcoholic version of Bud – something you should stay well clear of (not that the normal Bud beer is any good, but that’s an entirely different discussion).
The WiFi in the lounge worked like a charm during my stay in the lounge. Unfortunately, not all seats in the lounge have power sockets nearby, so charging your electronic devices might be a bit of a challenge if the lounge is near capacity during peak hours.
Even though the lounge itself is quite clean and modern, the same cannot be said of the toilets. The men’s room existed of a single toilet and two urinals – which is nowhere near enough of a lounge this size, meaning that queues are common. There is supposedly a single shower cubicle as well – although I did not test this out myself.
Although there is a toilet attendant who cleans the toilet after each usage, the floor of the entire toilet area is soaking wet. This is partly due to the fact that Arabs prefer using a bidet sprayer to clean themselves instead of using toilet paper, but also due to Muslim passengers using the wash basin to clean their feet.
I understand and respect that followers of Islam need to clean themselves before prayer time. This is a purification ritual called Wudu, requiring Muslims to wash their faces, hands, arms, and feet before they start to pray.
You would however expect that a country like Saudi Arabia would have a specific prayer area for Muslims where they can do this! I would certainly not expect them to be forced to use the single sink in the toilet area. It is beyond me that the airport authorities did not take this into account when constructing the South Terminal, especially considering that so many Muslim pilgrims use Jeddah Airport each year on Hajj or Umrah to visit nearby Mecca!
I hope the situation in the new terminal will be much better, not only for Muslim passengers to have a proper place to clean themselves before prayers, but also for all other passengers to enjoy a bathroom which is not splashed all over the place with water.
Even though the toilets are a subpar experience, the Alfursan lounge is however a good place for people watching. As the airport operates flights to destinations on four continents (North America, Europe, Africa, Asia) it brings together people of different cultures.
On both my visits to the lounge I ended up having interesting talks with other passengers hailing from places as diverse as Pakistan, Britain and the United States. Given the fact that there are so many passengers who have long overnight layovers, people tend to either kill the time by trying to get some sleep or finding a conversation partner.
Jeddah’s South Terminal is by far the worst airport facility I have ever set foot in. It is overcrowded and full of squalor and is really not a pleasant place at all to be forced to spend some time in. The construction and completion of the new airport terminal cannot be finished soon enough!
Fortunately, the Alfursan business class lounge is a vastly better place to wait for your Saudia flight. On the plus side, there is a good array of seating, the food is good and WiFi is fast. Although no alcohol is available (obviously) there is a decent selection of coffees, teas, juices and soft drinks.
The dismal toilet facilities are probably the biggest downside of this lounge. If you are visiting at peak times (especially later in the night) you might also have problems securing one of the few seats with a nearby power socket to plug in your electronic devices.
Even though the lounge is nothing special compared to other worldwide lounges (although also certainly not bad) – I would suggest every passenger who doesn’t travel in business class or hold Sky Team Elite Plus status to try to buy access into this lounge, which according to Saudia is a possibility.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Lazing in Laos and Gallivanting a Wee Bit Around Asia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Aegean Airlines Business Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
2. Review: Goldair Handling Lounge (Non-Schengen) Athens Airport
3. Review: Saudia Business Class Athens to Jeddah (Airbus A320)
4. Review: Saudia Alfursan Lounge Jeddah Airport South Terminal (current chapter)
5. Review: Review: Saudia Business Class Jeddah to Kuala Lumpur (Boeing 787)
6. Review: CitizenM Hotel Kuala Lumpur Bukit Bintang
7. Kuala Lumpur in One Day: What to See and Do in 24 Hours
8. A Batu Caves Half Day Trip From Kuala Lumpur By Public Transport
9. Review: Plaza Premium Lounge Private Resting Suite Gateway KLIA2
10. Review: Air Asia Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane (Airbus A320)
11. Review: Hotel Khamvongsa, Vientiane, Laos
12. Destination Trip Report: A Day in Vientiane, Laos
13. Guide: Domestic Bus Travel in Laos and How to Book a Ticket
14. Review: Simon Riverside Hotel, Vang Vieng, Laos
15. Trip Report: Vang Vieng – Worth a Stop on Your Laos Itinerary?
16. Review: Villa Ban Phanluang, Luang Prabang, Laos
17. Luang Prabang: The Stunning Pearl of Indochina
18. Guide: Luang Prabang Morning, Food and Night Markets
19. Kuang Si Falls: A Gorgeous Luang Prabang Day Trip
20. Review: Thai Smile Economy Class Luang Prabang to Bangkok (Airbus A320)
21. Review: Ibis Styles Bangkok Sukhumvit 4
22. Review: Air France/KLM Business Lounge Bangkok Airport
23. Review: Garuda Indonesia Business Class Bangkok to Jakarta (Boeing 737-800)
24. Review: Sapphire Plaza Premium Lounge Terminal 3 Jakarta Airport
25. Review: Garuda Business Lounge Terminal 3 Jakarta Airport
26. Review: Review: Japan Airlines Business Class Jakarta to Tokyo Narita (Boeing 787-8)
27. Review: Capsule Hotel Transit Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
28. Tokyo Stopover: What to See and Do in the Capital of Japan for a Day
29. Review: ANA Business Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport
30. Review: United Club Tokyo Narita Airport
31. Review: Turkish Airlines Economy Class Tokyo Narita to Istanbul (Boeing 777)
32. Review: Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge Istanbul Airport
33. Review: Turkish Airlines Economy Class Istanbul to Bucharest (Airbus A330)