My “Royal” Experience

Monday, September 24, 2007

It seems like public opinion concerning Royal Jordanian’s (RJ) quality of service is waning. I fly RJ about 12-16 times each year simply for the convenience of being able to check-in early at the 7th Circle City Terminal and the frequent flyer miles. (I use the term "convenience" loosely, as there are times when the unmanaged crowding and massive chaos makes early check-in a real chore.)

I’ve generally been a pretty decent supporter of RJ as they attempt to transform their airline from really bad to really mediocre. I hope that one day, RJ may rise through the ranks and become a really great airline, but that day has not yet arrived. Currently, quality of service on RJ is hit or miss.

My most recent experience with RJ was on a flight to and from the United States. The trip to the States was horrendous, while the return trip was much better.

Every trip out of Jordan starts in Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA), which is in pretty sad shape. The airport was built in 1983 but it was decorated in 1977 (or something like that). There are times when I wonder if the airport has been updated since its completion, aside from adding unnecessary obstacles to impede customer thoroughfare (such as the x-ray machines put in place to scan your luggage on the way out of the airport).

I generally try not to use the bathrooms in the airport (for obvious reasons), but as I was waiting for my flight this last time, it couldn’t be helped; I felt the urge. And as I stepped foot in the bathroom, I remembered why it was such a bad idea. From the water pooling on the floor around the open drains to the filthy toilets; from the lack of toilet paper to the bathroom door that wouldn’t close (allowing all those passing by to peek in at those trying to do their “business”), the bathroom screamed dysfunction. Considering that the airport services around 8,000 travelers a day, you would think that taking care of people’s bathroom needs would be a higher priority.

But I digress. I don’t believe that Royal Jordanian airline has any control over the state of QAIA. It does, however, have control of their own airline schedules and services which, I’ve discovered, generally are lacking when departing from QAIA. My most recent trip to the States boarded over an hour late and left the tarmac an hour-and-a-half late! This is my second trip in a row to the States where the plane left over an hour late.

One would expect that RJ would be utilizing their best planes when it comes to their long-haul bread-and-butter flights. But as Qwaider has documented, the dilapidated planes leave much to be desired. I’m especially disappointed in the entertainment options for a 12-hour flight: a couple 30-minute American television shows, a single trimmed-for-time movie and an hour-long. This dearth of content is available on a handful of fuzzy, badly colored screens or monitors positioned throughout the interior of the plane. I always hope against hope for the individual entertainment screens which are set into the back of each seat, but I’ve only managed to experience those on 1 or 2 of my trips throughout the year.

Due to our late departure from QAIA, we landed over an hour-and-a-half late in New York. Then it’s the typical wait in line for customs control and another 45-minute wait for luggage, which caused me to miss my connecting flight to Washington. I ended up having to stay overnight in a hotel and catch the next flight the following morning. RJ never offered any reparation for my inconvenience. (To be fair, the customs control and luggage wait were not the fault of RJ but, had we arrived on time, I would have never missed my flight.)

My return flight from Chicago, however, was much better. The flight boarded and left the airport exactly on time, which is most likely due to the strict penalties imposed by US airports for late departure. The plane was the same dumpy model, but the flight was pretty empty, so I was able to stretch out across several seats and get some rest. I guess the quality of the in-flight entertainment doesn’t matter as much when one is able to sleep through most of the trip. The flight staff (who were Japanese) were hospitable and the flight arrived 30-minutes early.

Here’s to hoping that the executives at RJ will listen to their valued customers and start to make some improvements. The goal should be consistent quality rather than the current hit-or-miss service that most have come to expect.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to comment on Royal Jordanian but because of the new Jordanian law governing web content I will not be able to do so for fear of negative consequences.

9/24/2007 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Imad said...

I know QAIA has become really bad. It used to be really nice in the 80s when in it was built but it is by far not the worst (Philly's International is). RJ is late once in a while (I don't fly as much as you) but the convenience of the non-stop flights from Chicago makes up for the bad stuff. I usually have a couple of cocktailsand fall asleep on the plane.
The good news is the airport is getting a major re-construction in the near future and RJ has orders a bunch of BOing 787 dreamlines for the long haul flights.

9/24/2007 6:06 PM  
Blogger Qwaider قويدر said...

We continue to hope!

A year ago, I was saying RJ was better than what I've recently! So it's getting worse

I hope someone from RJ is actually listening!

9/24/2007 6:10 PM  
Anonymous kinzi said...

'decorated in 1977', lol!

Long live Lufthansa, sage ich doch!

9/24/2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger Hareega said...

I think things will change significantly now that they've joined One World. Their website looks much better and thanks God you can purchase tickets online, and there are some basic rules that they should adhere by otherwise they'll be kicked out.
I hope they'll stop overbooking their flights!

It's a typical Jordanian phenomenon, we are super lazy but if we know we're gonna get penalized we do a heck of a job.

9/24/2007 7:50 PM  
Anonymous onzlo said...

RJ Flights to London are usually on the new planes so they tend to be pretty good.

But QAIA is a disaster, last time I was in the airport most of the cleaning staff/porters seemed to be busy chatting in the corner or trying to find tips with the minimum of effort (I think there should be a no-tipping/standard charge rule). The worst part however is the security guy at the x-ray machine, who to attract travellers attention would rudely SNAP his fingers in their faces, this is apart from the filthy plastic trays which are all piled up at the end of the machine.

Keep in mind that this is all AFTER the King's infamous July visit to the airport! One would think they are working at 110% to fix things, but apparantly not, I hope the whole QAIA management gets fired.

9/24/2007 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Ali said...

one thing for sure, in jordan, when it comes to anything official, progress is the exception not the norm, thanks to the entrenched system of political patronage that squeezes talents out and keeps incompetence in. what a shame to watch this decline and not be able to do a darn thing about it. from hospitals to universities to airlines. This is why the government wants to clamp down on the web, they want to wallow in corruption and incompetence and not have to worry about the sharp pens of cyber-pests like us complaining about how much we love Jordan and how helpless we feel in the face of the ongoing destruction of public institution caused by these thugs.

9/24/2007 8:11 PM  
Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

Welcome back Dave, we missed your groovy posts. I'm not going to argue with your hit or miss theory, it is fair evaluation & right on the money. As for the airport mothballed stinking bathrooms-- don't get me started.

9/24/2007 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Nizar said...

I fly with Lufthanza, I find it the best :D

9/24/2007 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Ali said...

Nizar, you are free to fly any other airline, but for those who us who want to fly with a domestic airline and to keep our money invested in Jordanian institutions we are finding it harder and harder to do so. how can you save public institutions when they are designed from the grounds up as a system of patronage to pay off loyalists. that's not how one builds a country. it seems at the official level we are in a state of constant decline, except repression and tax collection. and the local media is to horrifically impotent. it seems they are read from the same talking points distributed by the official press office.

i mean how bad can it get? incompetence, corruption, treason, repression, at this rate, we will follow Burma's footsteps in a a few years.

9/24/2007 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

I've only flown RJ once from London and I have to say it was a terrible experience. After boarding the plane we sat on the tarmac for hours and there was only one restroom as the rest were out of order.

9/24/2007 9:35 PM  
Blogger Bridget said...

I agree with everything you said. Here's what happened to us in August. Truly nightmarish, and we are STILL dealing with the consequences (read: I still haven't gotten my $800 back).

9/24/2007 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some insight into their food:


9/25/2007 6:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On all of my trips in and out of Jordan, I have flown RJ because of the price and because I had relatively okay experiences.

This summer, two of my friends got food poisoning in flight.

Last month, they lost two of my suitcases, and still don't know "where they are." Despite the fact that they were describing the contents of the suitcase to us and saying it was still at JFK. You can't manage to get the suitcases on the first time... then you have them, you know who owns them, and you *still* can't manage to put it on a plane? I can't *wait* to go through the process of filing a claim.

And don't get me started on QAIA. RJ may not control it, but as its anchor airline, shouldn't they be able to exercise influence and such over the state of the airport? It's embarrassing that in a country where we have Forever 21 and Top Shop and Safeway and more Mercedes Benz per capita than LA, our international airport has smelly, slimey holes in the ground in the bathroom.

I will never fly RJ again if I can avoid it.

-- Umm Zaid

9/28/2007 3:28 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home