Review: Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge Riyadh Airport

In this review we will check out the facilities at the Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge at Riyadh King Khalid International Airport (RUH).

Riyadh transit

After a comfortable flight from Rome in Saudia’s business class, I had arrived at Riyadh King Khalid International Airport.

We had a proper jet bridge on arrival, which meant that within a few minutes after the aircraft came to a standstill I could disembark the plane among the first group of passengers.

Of course, transiting an airport doesn’t count as having visited a country, but I was nonetheless still excited about setting foot on Saudi soil even though I would not officially enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After all, getting a glimpse of the country was quite rare those days!

saudi flag riyadh airport
The Saudi flag with the Islamic creed (shahada) on it. The text of the shahada reads: “There is no god but the God; Muhammad is the Messenger of the God.” ©Paliparan

Saudi Arabia

At the time of my Riyadh transit, Saudi Arabia was one of the hardest countries in the world to visit given that they didn’t really do tourist or transit visas. If you didn’t have connections to make a business trip – and are not a Muslim so you can go on Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage – there weren’t many options to visit.

This has changed now as Saudi Arabia has opened up for tourism and even issues (pricey) e-visas these days to tourists as the county is seemingly opening up and easing restrictions step-by-step.

The Kingdom has even lifted some discriminatory and restrictive measures against women, such as a driving ban for women.

riyadh airport
Walking through a corridor of Riyadh Airport after my arrival. ©Paliparan

Dress code

Although Saudi Arabia is still a very conservative Islamic country, this never really counted for their airports. A common misconception is that (non-Saudi) female passengers transiting Saudi airports have to cover their hair, which is simply not true.

Although all Muslim women certainly covered up at the airport, most Western and Asian women did not cover their hair and nobody seemed to be bothered by it.

Nowadays, it is not even needed anymore for women in the country of Saudi Arabia proper after Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said that women do not need to cover their head as long as their outfit is “decent and respectful”.

That said, it is still highly advised to dress conservatively when flying Saudia or transiting a Saudi airport – which means it is best to wear long shirts and trousers or skirts as a woman.

I would even say it counts for men too. Wearing a t-shirt is fine, but wearing shorts is for example highly frowned upon in conservative Arab culture. Although you would get away with it as a non-Muslim man, it is more respectful if you just wear normal trousers.

Security check

If you have a connecting flight at Riyadh Airport, you need to re-clear security. As a warning for passengers: alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Even as a transit passenger you are not allowed to bring along any alcohol with you as this will be confiscated.

After a short walk through a corridor, I arrived at a central rotunda where transit passengers have to go to a security checkpoint and arriving passengers can walk straight onward to Saudi immigration.

The security check was super smooth. There was one security officer who first checked my onward tickets and passport, after which I had to put my carry-on luggage through a scanner.

There were no queues or delays whatsoever and within 10 to 15 minutes after disembarking my aircraft from Rome I found myself at the gate area of Riyadh Airport.

saudia riyadh airport
The central rotunda at Riyadh Airport. ©Paliparan

Riyadh Airport

Given the size of Saudia as an airline company and the regional importance of the country, I found Riyadh Airport to be extremely dated and even rather small.

There are regional European airports, let’s say Stavanger Airport, which feel larger than this airport serving the Saudi capital.

It has nothing to do with the amount of flight departures and certainly not with the overall surface area of all airport premises, in which case Riyadh is actually the second largest airport in the world. It’s just that the main international airport terminal is remarkably small and cramped given the amount of passengers it handles.

There are just one or two duty free shops and a similar number of cafés and (fast food) restaurants for passengers. Unsurprisingly, queues were rather large at outlets like Starbucks.

I also counted no more than eight jet bridges in total, again showing how small the airport terminal is compared to regional airports across Asia, Europe and the US. It’s a far cry from shiny new Gulf airports like Dubai or Doha – and if you do not have lounge access it will be a tedious wait if you have a long (overnight) connection.

Alfursan Lounge entry requirements

Fortunately, as a business class passengers (and SkyTeam Elite Plus status holder) I could access the Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge.

It’s not the only lounge which Saudia has at Riyadh Airport, as the airline also has a first class lounge for passengers travelling in first class on Saudia, as well as the top frequent flyers of Saudia’s own frequent flyer programme (Alfursan Gold members) when flying in business or economy class.

The Saudia Alfursan Business Class Lounge is freely accessible for all Saudia business class passengers and SkyTeam Elite Plus status holders when travelling on Saudia or any other SkyTeam airline.

Alfursan Silver members can also access the business class lounge, but only when flying on Saudia. For the full entry requirements, check the Saudia website.

Previously, the website noted that non-status holders could buy lounge access for 126 SAR (31 EUR), although this bit of information has now disappeared completely from the Saudia website so I’m not sure if it still rings true.

Priority Pass and other lounge membership cards were however never accepted at the Saudia Alfursan lounges.

A look around the Saudia Alfursan Lounge

The business class section of the lounge is shaped like the letter L and has a good variety of seating ranging from dining tables to leather chairs and sofas and comfortable loungers.

The loungers were especially popular as almost all of them were taken, with most people using them for a quick nap.

When I entered the lounge during my relatively short layover, the Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge was buzzing with activity, with perhaps 60 to 70 percent of the seats being taken.

Given the amount of late night departures from Riyadh Airport that doesn’t come as a surprise, as there were several wide-body plane departures to destinations across Asia and the Americas at this hour.

Overall, the lounge looked quite nice, although it is by no means an especially beautiful or uniquely decorated space.

alfursan lounge riyadh
The Alfursan Business Lounge at Riyadh Airport. ©Paliparan
alfursan lounge
Dining tables at the Alfursan Lounge. ©Paliparan
departure board
There are quite some late night departures on Saudia from Riyadh. ©Paliparan

Buffet

The Alfursan Business Lounge has one main buffet area and two separate beverage counters. For food, several hot dishes were available from the buffet.

There were also some sandwiches, sweets and desserts as well as salads and fruits available. Overall, I’d say that the variety is greater than you would expect in your average business lounge – and everything did look quite appetising.

Even though I wasn’t really hungry I tried the Moroccan-style fish with rice and a small dessert and both were indeed tasty.

alfursan lounge riyadh
The buffet area of the Alfursan Lounge. ©Paliparan
lounge buffet
The buffet area of the Alfursan Lounge. ©Paliparan
rice fish
The fish and rice was flavourful and tasty. ©Paliparan
dessert lounge
A small dessert and some tea for dessert. ©Paliparan

Drinks

The Saudia Alfursan Lounge has two counters where you can grab yourself a drink. The fridges are filled with cans of soda, ice tea, bottled water and non-alcoholic beer. You will also find several canisters of juice and a hot water dispenser for tea.

The coffee machines make a passable espresso, and there is Arabic coffee in the dallah, the elegant, traditional coffee pot used to brew and serve Arabic coffee.

It being Saudi Arabia, there is of course no booze available in the lounge.

drinks station saudia alfursan lounge
A drinks station in the Saudia Alfursan Lounge. ©Paliparan

Internet and work stations

The WiFi internet in the lounge was fast and reliable. Some “inappropriate” websites might however be blocked by the Saudi authorities – which even involved a rather innocent news website which I tried to access.

There seemed to be enough seats near power sockets throughout the lounge, so I had no problem charging my electronics.

The Saudia Alfursan Lounge has a dedicated business centre with some computers and a meeting room which you can use.

saudia business centre
The business centre at the Saudia Alfursan Lounge. ©Paliparan

Other lounge facilities

The Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge in Riyadh has a few dedicated shower rooms, for which you should inquire at the lounge reception for their availability.

The restrooms in the Alfursan lounge were kept perfectly clean throughout my stay, something which also counted for the lounge in general as cleaning staff was eager to collect empty plates.

Apart from the aforementioned facilities, the other lounge amenity which I haven’t mentioned yet is a special kids room with video games and a drawing and colouring area.

Conclusion

The Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge in Riyadh is perfectly acceptable for a short layover in between flights. Although there is nothing which makes this lounge stand out, it certainly isn’t bad either.

There are some comfortable chairs and sofas available, there are clean toilets and shower rooms, and there is fast WiFi internet and enough power sockets for those who need to get some work done on their laptop or want to charge their mobile phones.

The buffet in the lounge is certainly better than your average business class lounge, as there is a good choice between different hot foods, sandwiches, sweets, salads and fruits.

Of course, it being Saudi Arabia means that you won’t get any vintage champagne at the Alfursan lounge, but the drinks selection isn’t all too bad.

The Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge in Riyadh basically is your average airport business lounge. Go in with the right expectations, and the time during your Riyadh airport transit will pass by quicker than you think!

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Journey to Java‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Rome Ciampino (Airbus A321)
2. Half a Day in Rome: A Walk Around the Eternal City
3. Review: Casa Alitalia Lounge ‘Piazza di Spagna’ Rome Fiumicino Airport
4. Review: Saudia Business Class Rome to Riyadh (Airbus A320)
5. Review: Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge Riyadh Airport (current chapter)
6. Review: Saudia Business Class Riyadh to Jakarta (Boeing 777-300)
7. Review: The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta, Indonesia
8. A Day in Jakarta: Exploring Indonesia’s Bustling Capital City
9. Review: Garuda Indonesia Domestic Business Lounge Jakarta Airport
10. Review: Garuda Indonesia Business Class Jakarta to Yogyakarta (Boeing 737-800)
11. Review: The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta – Mgallery By Sofitel
12. A Magical Sunrise Visit to Borobudur Temple
13. A Visit to the Great Hindu Temple Complex of Prambanan
14. Review: Yogyakarta to Surabaya (Indonesia) by Train
15. Review: Majapahit Hotel, Surabaya, Indonesia
16. A Day in Surabaya: Exploring Indonesia’s Second Biggest City
17. Review: Concordia Premier Lounge Surabaya Airport
18: Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class Surabaya to Singapore (Airbus A330-300)
19. A Short Singapore Stopover: Into the City or Stay at the Airport?
20. Review: SilverKris Lounge Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2
21. Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class Singapore to Manila (Boeing 787-10)
22. Review: PAGSS Business Lounge Manila Airport Terminal 1
23. Review: China Airlines Economy Class Manila to Taipei (Airbus A330-300)
24. Review: China Airlines Business Lounge Taipei Airport Terminal 1
25. Review: China Airlines Economy Class Taipei to Rome (Airbus A350)
26. Review: TAROM Economy Class Rome to Bucharest (Boeing 737-700)

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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