Air Travel in Saudi

I enjoy traveling by air in Saudi Arabia.  It is much more relaxing than traveling in the West, particularly the USA and I also feel very secure when traveling.  Just because in some ways air travel is more relaxed, Saudi Arabia in no way minimizes on security.  However their security practices are slightly different than perhaps in other places.  To begin with and consistent with most places, bags are x-rayed even before check in.  But at that point differences take place.  While there is not segregation per se at the airport, few women are seen at the ticket counters.  Usually the man is the one in charge of checking in, getting the boarding passes and checking the luggage.  The women will meanwhile sit in a designated area (for women of course).  When proceeding to go through security in order to get to the gates, segregation continues with one area for men and another area for women.  As a woman, I put my carry on onto the conveyor belt to be x-rayed and then I pass through a curtain to enter a small closet like room.  In this room are usually two women who will perform a body pat followed by search with a wand.  The majority of time I am asked to remove my shoes (even if slip on sandals) and a belt if I am wearing one.  I’ve not really figured out why I am asked to remove my shoes for they are not put through x-ray or physically inspected so I’ve deduced it is to make me feel better.  After I’ve been checked, I’ll exit through another curtain and then retrieve my hand luggage.

Unlike flights in the States it is still possible to carry many items in hand luggage such as make up, mouthwash, toothpaste and even such delicious like my mother-in-law’s homemade chutney which she always sends back with me.  If we are heading to Makkah we will usually bring certain sweets and edibles that are special to Riyadh and on our return we are loaded with differing kinds of Makkah sweets or even zamzam water.  Security has never given us a problem to carry such items.

Saudi flights continue to serve in-flight meals and snacks.  These are usually quite tasty too.  On longer flights one will receive an appetizing meal which is served using real silverware and dishes.  Maybe that is also part of what makes the meal more enjoyable?

One aspect of flying in Saudi that I do find surprising in some ways and not in others is the lack of regard many Saudis give to in-flight rules.  An occasional mobile will usually ring during a flight (and then the flight attendant will admonish the passenger for it still being on).  Or when a flight lands, while it is still cruising on the runway many Saudis are already standing up and opening overhead compartments.  And when the flight has stopped, watch out for it is usually like a stampede then!


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