In October, 2018, my five month stunt in Europe was over. I was in Tbilisi, Georgia, a city quickly getting colder and gloomier as November drew closer. Online I was trying to find the cheapest way to reach the Philippines.
Google Flights showed the cheapest flight from Tbilisi to Manila to be well into the $600-dollar range. When I did my own research of combining two separate legs, I found a cheaper route:
Leg 1: Tbilisi to Dubai, UAE via Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Leg 2: Dubai to Manila (offset by two days so I’d have time to explore Dubai)
This set me back $490, but would have been closer to $300 if I didn’t have a bag to check in!
Flight Delays Leaving Georgia
Fast forward to early November and Marty from Intrepid Road and I are bussing out of bustling Rustavelli Street in Tbilisi, heading to Tbilisi International Airport.
Arriving two and a half hours before the flight, we waited for the overhead screens to display which counter to check-in at. When it finally did, we had a problem. The flight was delayed by one and a half hours, meaning we only had half an hour (as did our checked bags) to get from one flight to the other in Riyadh. We were booked on the last Flynas Airlines flight from Riyadh to Dubai for the day, so missing it meant staying overnight in Riyadh.
I did some research on this: All visitors to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are required to get a visa to enter the country (if we wanted to leave the airport and get a hotel room for example). So missing the flight equaled staying the night in the airport until the next Flynas flight to Dubai at 7:40am the next morning.
The workers at the check-in desk were of NO help. They said it was our responsibility to transfer our checked bags to the next flight, AND they couldn’t print off our second boarding passes to Dubai. We’d have to do that at the “Transfer Desk” in Riyadh.
Since we were scheduled to have only 30 minutes in Riyadh to pick up our bags, print boarding passes, and make our transfer, I was prepared for the worst. I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of staying overnight in a country that only recently lifted the ban on women driving.
Nothing could be done and our precious time in Dubai was in the hands of Flynas staff as we boarded the flight to Riyadh. We landed one hour after our scheduled time of landing, sooner than anticipated with the delay, which left us with one hour in the Riyadh Airport.
We ran off the airplane and down the terminal. The path opened up to a beautiful geometric fountain where passport control was located. We asked where the Transfer Desk was, and the airport workers pointed around to the other side of the fountain. As we headed in that direction, we noticed a black stripe on the ground that also indicated “International Transfer Flights”.
The “Transfer Desk” turned out to be just a man with a walkie-talkie behind a podium who we explained our situation to. He pointed us to the section behind him, where we went through security again. There were a few “Exit” signs leading to a back staircase that we followed up to the Departure gates. We met another Flynas worker at the top of the staircase and we told him we were transferring to Dubai. He led us to a gate where someone entered our flight confirmation information, took pictures of our passports and our checked luggage tags, then told us to wait at the departure gate for the Dubai flight to get our new boarding passes. The whole process took 20 minutes from when we exited the plane!
We now had time to admire this impressive fountain in the middle of the airport, and even had a cheap Domino’s Pizza meal while waiting for boarding.
We were lucky Riydah airport was not so big and the Flynas airlines workers are efficient, helpful, and speak English well. In the end, we boarded our flight to Dubai without any worries or delay.