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Royal Jordanian (RJA)
by Sana Chebaro
PHOTO: EDWARD PASCUZZI
Flights: RJ262 and RJ261
Route: New York (IATA: JFK/ICAO: KJFK)-Amman (AMM/OJAI)-New York
Date: June 21 & June 25, 2006
Aircraft: Airbus A340-200
Seats: 17A & 31B
Departure times: 2300 & 1030
Passenger: Sana Chebaro
If it was not for the fact that I had no luggage to check-in I would have been in some serious trouble. I arrived at the RJA check-in area at JFK almost three hours before the flight to find an eternally spiraling line of people with luggage of monstrous proportions. The customer service agent on the floor allowed me to jump the queue and I was speedily checked-in.
Although I was not in business class, on my return flight I was travelling with a friend who was and she was allowed to bring one person with her to check-in and into the business lounge. Check-in was accomplished comfortably and swiftly. However, one word of warning when seated in the AMM lounge, do not count on the hosts to let you know when the flight is boarding. There was no flight announcement or indication on the monitors and all those seated in the lounge barely made the flight. And this was at the airline’s home airport!
There was a bottleneck at the entrance to the airplane because of an inefficient boarding strategy and a full flight. RJA really needs to be more organized in order to let those who are sitting in the aft rows board first. Families with children should also be asked to pre-board so that they can organize themselves. Newspapers in Arabic and English were offered. Announcements were made in Arabic and English, and an extremely amateurish safety video was screened as we taxied out.
After the punctual departure, headphone sets were distributed. No amenity kits were offered in coach class. There was one video screen every four rows which made it uncomfortable for viewers in the first and fourth. The moving map display came in handy, with ‘distance to destination’ and ‘estimated time of arrival’ updates.
With a 34in (86cm) pitch, legroom was ample compared to other trans-Atlantic airlines, but the lack of headrests was a severe challenge to those who wanted to sleep. One blanket and pillow was provided for each passenger. I asked for more blankets as the cabin became chilly, but none were available. About an hour after takeoff, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were served, and we had to wait until 0100 (NYT) for dinner. Only fish and chicken dishes were available, with the usual bread roll, salad, and small dessert. The entrée (main course) was rubbery and lacked taste. Coffee and tea was available after the late night meal. With no ‘do not disturb’ signs, slumbering passengers should be prepared to be woken for each meal. Flight attendant service was inattentive, and it was ‘self-service’, with a walk to the aft galley outside the scheduled meal times. Before landing we were offered a small sandwich without a smile. Apparently the 12½-hour trip had taken its toll on the cabin staff.
We landed on time in AMM; however, we were not informed that we would need Jordanian dinars in order to buy our visas upon arrival. This meant unnecessarily queuing to attain the visa stamp, to realize upon reaching the counter that Jordanian dinars were the only currency accepted. Thus we had to queue again to change money. After waiting again to attain the stamp and yet again to show the stamp at immigration, and lo and behold yet again to have our bags screened, I was glad that I did not have to wait for that carousel to start turning.
With talk of joining the Oneworld alliance and a fleet upgrade (the ex-Air France and Sabena A340s are a dozen years old), Royal Jordanian has the potential to become a decent airline. First and foremost it needs to start by training employees to provide better service and warmth, and to better organize check-in and boarding procedures. Once cabins have been updated, RJA should be able to provide in-flight entertainment to make the New York–Amman route more bearable.
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