Airport review: King Khalid International (RUH)

King Khalid international is the best airport in the world. Such a statement could make you choke on your green tea, throw your hands up in disbelief and also perhaps even cease reading this entry….yet I still stand by what I wrote and here, I will explain why.

My love for RUH commenced when I first arrived into Riyadh. I was unsure of where to go and felt very nervous. The army official picked this up immediately and stayed with me as I “immigrated” to Saudi. He put me in front of the diplomatic line, even though I’m not a diplomat, and the airport manager greeted me as my visa was checked. Such warm hospitality made me cry as no country in the world is so kind to visitors, let alone to immigrants. In fact, they were apologising that they couldn’t work faster. Within ten minutes of landing, I was en route to my new home.

For many years, I’ve been aware of the Skytrax best airport awards and can’t help but wonder why they would award certain airports awards. I sincerely believe that rather than focusing on how easy it is to board the plane and how easy it is to leave the airport, the awards focus on the copious distractions that airports have to spend your money in. From the cigarettes to runway viewing bars, restaurants and other activities such as plastic surgery, these are unnecessary for most travellers.

King Khalid International trumps all of the airports I’ve been to when you focus purely on ease. Entering the airport, passing through passport control and security takes less than 5 mins, perhaps ten minutes on a bad day. Exiting the aircraft, passport control and collecting baggage is also less than ten minutes. Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but all the times I’ve landed into Riyadh, my baggage was waiting for me and NOT the other way round. I find it extraordinary that the MIS system is so advanced here.

How did they manage to be so efficient? The most obvious answer is because of the segregation. Men and women have their own security to pass through, which is further divided into citizens, immigrants and foreign business visitors. I love landing and the security guiding you to the correct line. If there are more than ten people waiting in the citizen line, a new counter will be opened immediately.

Even boarding is a breeze…women never have to queue and have priority boarding when they want to board. These little things increase my love for Saudi. On the surface, foreigners may feel frustrated over segregation but it has so many advantages.

Although there are a lack of shops to currently spend your money in, there is the usual gift and snack shop. Furthermore, the airport is undergoing renovation and upon completion, a few luxury boutiques will be open. There is a lounge, and access can be brought easily. The general seating everywhere is comfortable enough that you can spend hours here if necessary. The one thing that I can’t comment on are the washroom facilities, but I will visit them next time I’m there.

Now you may wonder what experience I have with airports, and I will gladly share with you the stories. I have been to all the so called best airports in the world – I’ve been to over 30 countries, spanning four continents and this is only in the last two years. I was stuck in SVB when Thailand had issues, in Dubai when the volcano erupted and in LHR, when there was less than a cm of snow. I travel both commercially and privately. I spend 50% of my time in airports.

So you see, such simple things are what should define an airport. Do you really need the distractions? What should be imperative is spending the minimal time waiting, leaving with all your luggage and arriving with all of it on the other side.

Hence why I love this airport so much…RUH is like my child. Forever Love ❤