What is it like to fly on Saudia and have a 9-hour layover in Riyadh? | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Jan 17, 2018

What is it like to fly on Saudia and have a 9-hour layover in Riyadh?

For someone who works overseas, it is a blessing to be able to spend Christmas and New Year with the whole family. Hence, when the opportunity knocks, you just have to grab it!

However, coming from our 2016 holidays in the Philippines, Ed and I were hesitant about going home on super peak season again mainly because flights can be unreasonably expensive. But mid-2017, we found attractive (I mean, relatively cheap) fares on Saudia flights. 

Saudia Airlines

Things to remember before boarding a Saudia Flight 
All Saudia flights have a layover in Saudi Arabia; either in Riyadh or in Jeddah. For our return flights, we had to transit in King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. We haven't been there, but we know how strict Saudi can be. So, we were a bit worried about some stuff.

Our first concern was the dress code. Should I wear an abaya? Should I cover my hair? The answer is NO. This was verified by the staff at the check-in counter. As long as the outfit is not revealing and the hairstyle is not eye-catching, there's no need to cover up.  

Shopping for liquor in Dubai Duty Free was another issue. It is our routine to buy wine for pasalubong in Dubai Duty Free, but for our Saudia flight, we had to break our little tradition. Saudia is a Dry Airline, which means they do not serve alcohol and they do not allow passengers to consume or to bring alcohol on board!

Lastly, the loooong layovers in Riyadh. How long? 4 hours on the outbound flight. 9 hours on the inbound flight! That's a lot of time to waste. At the back of my mind, I was actually wondering if we can go out and explore a bit of the city. But, no, that's not possible. Anyway, let's talk about the layover later.      

Saudia plane in NAIA
Saudia airplane in NAIA

Economy Seats in Saudia Airline
Economy Seats in Saudia MNL - RUH flight

Saudia Airline Review
Thankfully, all the minor issues occurred pre-flight. The flight, which is the most important part of the journey, was smooth sailing. I am not an expert airline reviewer, but here's what I think about Saudia or Saudi Arabian Airlines. 

Seat: Economy Class seat is comfortable. There is an ample legroom; enough space to recline without bothering the passenger behind. There is an adjustable headrest, as well as a footrest. 

In-flight Entertainment: I love it! The movie and tv show selections are updated. I watched a new movie - Kingsman and the Golden Circle and two episodes of The Crown. Music playlist was great on the outbound flight but on the flight back to Riyadh (MNL-RUH), it was limited to Arabic songs.

Food: Full delicious hot meals every service! I still can't believe I had grown-up Mac n Cheese on board.  

A glimpse of Riyadh in Saudia in-flight magazine
A glimpse of Riyadh in Saudia in-flight magazine

breakfast on board
breakfast on board

Layover in Riyadh
There's a beautiful fountain near the arrival gate that gives out a good first impression. I guess that's what most passengers need to see or feel; something relaxing before venturing out to the unknown.

Together with other passengers with connecting flights, Ed and I went to the transfer desk. We presented our passport and boarding pass for the next flight and went through the security check. It was quick! In no time, we found ourselves in the Departure Area wondering where the airport lounge is.

There are shops, cafes and just enough seats in the boarding gates. I was afraid to take photos or to film as I might unknowingly offend somebody. We all know that, in this region, it is illegal to take photos/videos of people without their permission.

Since Ed and I have Lounge Key courtesy of our Najm Voyager card, we opted to spend our layover in Wellcome Lounge. Lounge Key granted us free access, but the airport lounge is also open to all passengers for a fee of 130 SAR per person for 6 hours (as of January 2018). 

King Khalid International Airport
King Khalid International Airport

Wellcome Lounge in Riyadh Airport
Wellcome Lounge in Riyadh Airport

dates in Riyadh airport lounge
Dates and Arabic coffee welcomed us in the lounge.

seats in Riyadh airport lounge
These seats provide a little privacy! 

food in Riyadh airport lounge
Asparagus soup and Stir-fry chicken for dinner

Wellcome Lounge in King Khalid International Airport is one of the best lounges we have been to! It has cozy sofas, stylish tub chairs, minimalist decor and clean overall design. Lounge facilities include free Wi-Fi, refreshments, shower, and kids play area. Spa and daybeds are also available at additional charge.

For our 9-hour layover, we decided to book a deluxe room for 4 hours because SLEEP is LIFE. Haha! We paid 150 SAR each and got a tiny soundproof room with a double bed and bathroom. Despite the compact size, the room is actually conducive to sleep. I dozed off, slept for 3 hours straight until my alarm woke me up!   

Sleeping area in Wellcome Lounge
Sleeping area in Wellcome Lounge

sleeping in Riyadh airport lounge
double bed in a Deluxe room

ensuite bathroom in Riyadh airport lounge
free toiletries in the ensuite bathroom

Leaving the airport during a layover in Riyadh is not possible. So, spending it sleeping in the lounge could be the best option. Of course, passengers can always wait for the next flight near the boarding gate. But, I tell you, I would be pretty boring! 

Overall, our flight experience with Saudia was better than what I expected. There were stumbling blocks along the way, but no big hurdles for us not to jump through.

Here's a short clip of our 9-hour layover:  

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