I have to go back from the U.S. to Dubai and was looking to try out something different. I found out that Royal Jordanian (RJ) has a good connection from Chicago via Amman to Dubai. Royal Jordanian was one of the oldest airlines to connect the Middle East and the U.S. since they have L1011 and I am always wondering what these flights are like.
Royal Jordanian is a OneWorld alliance member and tends to release a decent amount of award seats ahead. One can redeem on American Airlines miles (70,000 miles from U.S. to the Middle East in Business Class)
Chicago to Amman
Royal Jordanian currently flies 5 times a week between Amman and Chicago. They also serve New York JFK and Detroit (via Montreal). The airline uses Terminal 5 at Chicago O'Hare. Check-in was a breeze as I arrived just 90 minutes before the flight.
RJ use the Air France lounge at Chicago O'Hare which is closed for maintenance unfortunately.
O'Hare Int'l terminal was busy as most international departures are in the evening.
I was surprised by the large crowd turns out at the gate. Boarding starts at 1 hour before departure time. Unfortunately, I cannot see the plane as there is no window at this gate.
The boarding was slow as there were lot of elderly on wheelchair and young infants. The flight was about 90% full which is surprisingly high load in February as it is low season.
I was greeted by a Jordanian cabin crew dressed in traditional costumes. I immediately thought about when traditional meets modernity (the B787).
Royal Jordanian B787-8 has 24 business Class in 2-2-2 configuration and 246 economy class seats. The Business Class seats are identical of those on United B787 and KLM B777. The seat has good padding and is comfortable in lounge position, but window seats do not have direct aisle access.
Row 4A/K is missing a window but I can lean ahead to see the view.
Amenity kits, sanitizing kits, Arabic coffee and juices are offered before takeoff.
I can't help but want to take a momento photo with the crew dressed in traditional costumes. It really reflects the culture of the destination and represent the airline well.
Departed just before the winter storm
We departed on-time at 7pm out of Chicago O'Hare runway 28R. Flight time to Amman was 10 hours 30 minutes flying over Mid-Atlantic, Ireland, the UK, Europe and descending over Cyprus and Isreal into Amman, Jordan.
Our flight left just ahead of the winter storm arriving in Chicago which brought some snow.
In-flight service include hot towels, printed menu and wine list. The airline seems restored most service to pre-pandemic level.
In Economy Class, there are choices of chicken noodles or fish with rice. Both seem Asian meals rather than Arabic. Maybe Chicago catering options are limited?
In Business Class, the appetizer is cold chicken with hommus in a tomato cup.
Much to my delight, the main courses are presented as a buffet on a cart. Passengers can mix and match their choices.
I tried out a bit of everything on my plate. The steak was very well cooked but the rest is lack of flavor.
Jordanian white and red wine were offered during dinner. RJ is not a dry airline.
After the main course, the crew rolled out the dessert cart with cheesecakes and tea/coffee.
The bed is quite narrow to my body size. It reclines into full flat. There is no cover sheet or mattress on top. Although narrow, the good thing is that there is almost no restriction in the footwell.
During the flight, a flight attendant told me most of the people flying on Royal Jordanian from the U.S. are going to Jordan and neighbour countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq etc. Most of the passengers remember the airline as ALIA (the former name of Royal Jordanian).
I can't help but looked up some old ALIA image online. I found this beautiful L1011-500 in ALIA livery.
Breakfast was served 1.5 hours before arrival. There was a choice between omelette or pancake. I took the latter.
The landing was uneventful, we flew over Tel Aviv Airport which is only 20 minutes away by air from Amman, Jordan.
Crown Lounge, Amman
I spent 2 hours in transit at the Crown Lounge in Queen Alia Int'l Airport. The lounge is on the 2nd floor above the main terminal. It seems most of the airline use this lounge plus it accept priority pass and lounge key (credit card) for entrance.
In terms of food offering, there are individual portioned hommus, moutabal, and salad. There was a choice of chicken kabseh (rice) or asian noodles as main dish.
There is also a live pasta station cooking pasta of your choice.
I tried out the Kabseh which is really flavorful and lovely.
My next flight to Dubai was operated by the A321 in retro ALIA livery. ALIA was the former name of Royal Jordanian Airline. The airline and the airport was named after Queen Alia of Jordan.
The Royal Jordanian A321 has 20 regional Business Class seats. The seat pitch is about 46" inch which is better than most U.S. First Class on narrowbody.
I was feeling the jetlag but managed to enjoy dinner on the short 2.5 hours flight. No buffet cart was used on this short segment to serve dinner.
I think the best way to sum up Royal Jordanian is "When Tradition Meets Modernity". Once on-board, I found some great cultural elements which are reflective of the country Jordan. Most airlines these days don't embed their culture into products onboard.
Here are some pros and cons on flying RJ:
- Dinner Buffet was fantastic in both presentation and choice. Most service were restored.
- One World member which makes it easy for award redemption
- Good scheduling and connection out of Amman between Middle East and the U.S.
- Lack of individual seating in Business Class
- No Wi-Fi onboard
- The short haul fleet need to refresh
There are great history and culture embedded in Royal Jordanian. No doubt the pandemic has affected the airline which relies heavily on international traffic. I hope the airline's finest day is yet to come if it can continue to upgrade its fleet and product onboard.