MIAMI — The “Art of Flying” is currently the advertising motto of the Kingdom of Jordan’s flag carrier, Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ), which currently has 110 daily departures covering two domestic and 85 international destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. The airline has been a member of the oneworld alliance since 2007.
RJ was founded as Alia, named after the eldest child of the late King Hussein, in 1963, and it is based at its hub airport, Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (IATA: AMM / ICAO: OJAI) and also has a focus airport, King Hussein International Airport (IATA: AQJ / ICAO: OJAQ) in Aqaba.
The airline started with two aircraft, a Handley Page Dart Herald and a Douglas DC-7 serving Beirut, Cairo, and Jeddah. Alia entered the jet age in 1971 with the delivery of the Boeing 707, and in 1977 New York’s JFK Airport became its first destination in the U.S. The airline changed its name from Alia to Royal Jordanian in 1986. In 2001 the name was changed again to Alia – the Royal Jordanian Airlines Company, but it is still most commonly referred to as Royal Jordanian.
RJ is also the longest-serving Arab carrier to New York. Moreover, RJ is the only major Arab carrier serving Israel. In addition to becoming the first Arab airline to join oneworld in 2007, RJ became a private company that same year with a market capitalization of $366 million USD. The Jordanian government holds a 26% stake.
Despite Jordan’s political stability, its location in a volatile region of the world, as well as fuel prices, have always been the main determining factors in the company’s financial bottom line. The “Arab Spring” that started over three years ago, as well as high fuel costs, resulted in a net loss of $81 million USD, but 2012 saw a recovery that resulted in a net profit of $1.5 million USD. Furthermore, revenue in 2012 was $1.1 billion USD, a nine percent rise from 2011. However, the delicate political situation, especially in Jordan and Egypt, led to a decrease in travel demand and contributed to a net loss of $60 million USD in 2013. Increasing competition from Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, the “Big Three” Gulf carriers, have also pressured RJ.
RJ aims to establish itself as the Middle East’s “regional carrier” by adding small routes to cities like Alexandria, Egypt, where a big competitor like Emirates would not use its much larger aircraft. RJ also competes with Egypt Air and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines for these smaller routes, and it has dramatically improved its in-flight and ground services, in light of the emergence of low cost carriers, such as Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, and flydubai. The airline recently hired the global advisory and investment banking firm Seabury Group to help define a new ten-year plan on how to move forward.
RJ’s current fleet consists of a mix of Airbus and Embraer jets, and in 2008 it became the first Middle Eastern carrier to operate three aircraft of the Airbus A320 family. It currently operates four A319s (with one more on order), seven A320s (with three more on order), four A321s, three A330-200s, four A340-200s, three Embraer 175s, and five Embraer 195s.
RJ’s wide and narrowbody Airbuses provide all economy passengers with seatback IFE screens that include movies, television, audio, and games. Passengers in business class, known as Crown Class, get a wider variety of the same features. For Crown Class customers flying on the Embraer fleet, portable entertainment devices offering similar entertainment are provided.
In August 2014, RJ will receive the first of eleven Boeing 787-8 aircraft, and it will have five of the type by year’s end. The 787 will replace all A340s and eventually the A330s. With respect to replacing the A340, “two holes are better than four” in terms of fuel burn, operational, and maintenance costs. Moreover, the 787 has a six percent lower operating cost per seat than the A330. RJ plans to fly to more international destinations with the 787s, but as of this report, the airline has not provided any details. Chicago will be the first U.S. city served by the new aircraft starting on August 31, 2014.
RJ’s 787-8 will seat 267 passengers (23 in Crown Class and 244 in economy). Compared to the planned 787-8 configuration, RJ’s A340s seat 24 in Crown Class and 230 in economy for a total of 254, while its A330s seat 24 in Crown Class and 259 in economy for a total of 283.
For the 787 fleet’s inflight entertainment and connectivity, RJ selected Thales to install the the advanced TopSeries AVANT system and TopConnect cabin communications network. The TopSeries AVANT system is distinguished for advanced technologies, such as high definition video, solid state hard drives, and faster processors, and is an award winning solution known for its thin profile, lightweight, modern design, and local content storage capacity. For connectivity, the Thales cabin communications network supports swift broadband capabilities for GSM, WiFi internet, and integrated inflight entertainment applications. The TopConnect solution also integrates OnAir as the communications service provider. RJ installed OnAir to offer inflight internet and mobile phone services on some European and regional flights.
The hub: Queen Alia International Airport
Queen Alia International Airport (IATA: AMM / ICAO: OJAI), built in 1983, is Jordan’s largest airport, and it is located 20 miles south of the capital Amman. It has two parallel runways 8L/26R and 8R/26L, each measuring 12,007 x 200 feet. The airport is situated at 2,397 feet above sea level, and it is named after the third wife of the late King Hussein. In 2013 a brand new state-of-the art terminal building opened to replace the original passenger terminal. A second phase of this modernization will be completed in 2016.
The new terminal was designed by the British architecture firm Foster + Partners. The expansion itself is handled by the Jordanian company Airport International Group. The cost of the new facility is 118 million USD. A key characteristic of the terminal’s design is 127 concrete domes that resemble the tents of traditional Bedouins tribes native to the region.
In addition to being RJ’s main hub, it is also a hub for the smaller Jordanian carriers Jordan Aviation, Petra Airlines, Royal Falcon, and Royal Wings (RJ’s charter arm). The airport also serves 29 international carriers. Cargo operations include Royal Jordanian, which has two Airbus A310F freighters, and four international carriers.
From Amman, Royal Jordanian serves the U.S. cities of Chicago, Detroit, and New York. Since the inauguration of the new terminal, the airport can handle up to 9 million passenger per year, and once all expansion is completed, this capacity will rise to 12 million. The airport also improves the passenger experience by providing free wireless internet in the entire terminal.
Make sure to join us tomorrow as we take to the skies with Royal Jordanian, flying three aboard its Crown Class business cabin on three different flights. Don’t miss it!