Flight Review: Royal Jordanian (A320) Business Class From Amman to Tel Aviv
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To The Point
Royal Jordanian has a monopoly on this route and prices it as such. The Pros: A spacious, open air lounge with fresh, delicious croissants. The Cons: High carrier-imposed charges on award tickets, limited economy award availability and no in-flight service of any kind.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Platinum Card® from American Express
The route seemed simple enough. I had to get from Amman, Jordan, to Tel Aviv, Israel — cities separated by less than 100 miles — and I figured with my flexible schedule, I’d be able to find a reasonable flight between them. I was wrong. It turns out Royal Jordanian is the only carrier running this route and it prices it as such. I got as creative as I could, but even with an award ticket, I ended up spending 9,000 British Airways Avios and $177 in taxes and fees for a business-class seat. Still, I was looking forward to receiving Royal Jordanian’s premium treatment and visiting the flagship lounge in its hub airport, Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (AMM).
This was an adventure. I wasn’t originally trying to book a business-class ticket, I just wanted to get from Amman to Tel Aviv as quickly and cheaply as possible, which is how I normally roll. But Royal Jordanian wasn’t going to make it easy. With no competition on this route, it sets a ridiculous price.
The initial sticker shock changed to a glimmer of hope when I noticed the prices were in Jordanian Dinar. Without yet knowing the exchange rate, I was hoping that number would come down when converted to USD. Instead, it went up. RJ was actually charging $412 in economy and $511 in business class for a one-way 45-minute flight, and over the course of the three months I looked, the price never dropped by more than $30. There’s no way I was going to fork over that much money, so I had to start looking into award travel.
At first glance, this looked like a great opportunity to book a British Airways distance-based Avios award since Royal Jordanian is a Oneworld member with flights bookable directly on BA’s site, however I couldn’t find any economy award availability for the days I needed to travel. In searching three months for availability, only two days had award space in economy. Note that award inventory on BA’s site matched Royal Jordanian’s.
There was plenty of business-class availability though, so I decided to suck it up and pay the 9,000 Avios for business class instead of the 4,500 Avios it would have cost to fly in economy. Then, I got nailed again on the taxes and fees: $177.24 for — once again — a 45-minute flight. At least I paid for it with my Platinum Card from American Express so I’d get 5x points on the airfare, in this case, 886 Membership Rewards points for my troubles.
If I had used Royal Jordanian miles, it would have cost 4,550 for an economy flight or 6,825 for business class, while taxes and fees would have been the same at about $177. This made me believe briefly that the extra charge may have been airport or immigration fees and not a lame airline surcharge, but then I looked up the flights on American. The same flight would have cost 30,000 AAdvantage miles, but only $73 in fees. I found it interesting that both BA and RJ imposed a carrier charge, but AA did not.
Looking at the breakdown of the fees confirmed it all. $73 translates to actual government and airport taxes, but then there are two carrier imposed charges, one in upper case and one in lower case, just because they can. It almost felt like the carrier was trolling me. These fees totaled $104. For a 45-minute flight.
At the time, I just didn’t have any good options. I even looked into taking a bus or taxi for the less than 100-mile journey, but the West Bank lies directly between Amman and Tel Aviv and no transportation options crossed it. To get all the way around would have taken much longer, so I opted to fly instead. Since none of the major points programs transfer to Royal Jordanian, Avios ended up being the best of a lot of bad options. I transferred 9,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio — at the time, Amex Membership Rewards used a 5:4 ratio — and 9,000 Avios and $177 later, I was booked on a 45-minute flight. (Have I mentioned how long this flight was?)
Author’s Note: While writing this review, I took another look at BA’s and RJ’s sites. It seems RJ has decided to open up more award space and I’m now seeing wide availability in both economy and business class.
A 6:55am flight coupled with RJ’s repeated insistence that I arrive three hours early for flights out of AMM made for a very early morning. The airport is a good 30 minutes outside the city, but luckily it’s only about $21 for an Uber ride. Uber’s a real treat in Amman, a city of pestering taxis — most of them offered Wi-Fi and my airport pick-up on arrival actually made an unsolicited stop to buy me a cup of Turkish coffee.
I pulled up to an empty Queen Alia International Airport at 3:50am and its towering concrete ceilings magnified the emptiness of the place. Something about it reminded me of the Death Star.
I knew there was a dedicated check in for Crown Class — what Royal Jordanian calls its business-class product — but I had to go inside to ask where it was. It turns out there’s a separate entrance for premium check-in at Door 1, which meant I had to exit the airport and walk all the way back to the beginning of the terminal. It would have saved time to know beforehand that I’d need to get dropped off at the first door.
I believe this was my first time checking in at an airport while sitting down. A man came out right away to assist me, while another took my bag and returned a minute later with a luggage tag and two dinar he said had fallen out of my bag.
I entered the terminal and was most looking forward to checking out Royal Jordanian’s flagship Crown Lounge. More Star Wars: the U-shaped space loomed above the duty free shops below like an Imperial Command Post in the Death Star.
Even the elevator lobby was more elegant than most.
While I had access to the Crown Lounge because I was flying in business class, I could have also gotten in thanks to my Priority Pass membership. The open air lounge was spacious and impressive — and open 24 hours.
There was no shortage of seating or styles of seating, especially at this hour.
From here, you could view the planes outside as well as the terminal and shops below.
There was also an alcove so you could get some shut-eye.
There were plenty of soft drinks to choose from, water, and espresso machines — sadly, there was no Turkish coffee, which I had grown fond of here.
There was no bartender working at this hour, but Amstel Light beer and red and white wines from the St. George winery in Jordan were available.
The juice bar was presumably staffed at some hours, but at 5:00am, it just had self-service orange juice and iced tea.
The other side of the U-shaped lounge, where the small crowd that was in the lounge at this hour hung out, featured the food, TVs and a fully stocked bar — when the bartender isn’t present, guests are free to help themselves.
The standard early morning breakfast offerings consisted of cereal…
… a salad bar …
… breads and cakes …
… and hummus and sandwiches.
Until now, everything was pre-packaged and average, but the fresh croissants made the entire lounge visit worth it! You could smell them as they baked in the oven behind the counter. They went straight from the oven to the tray and were fresh enough to burn your mouth. The flavors were plain, cheese and thyme, and all were delicious.
The semi-private TV stalls were a nice, unique feature. Don’t worry, that’s me in the photo below. I wasn’t creeping on someone else’s stall.
The bathrooms were pretty average and not much different than the ones in the terminal. There was a charge of 11 dinar (~$15) to use the showers, which was pretty lame.
Wi-Fi in the lounge was plenty quick (left), but so was the free internet access available throughout Amman airport (right).
Gates with two digits are on the ground floor, which had the ambiance of a locker room for Storm Troopers. Also note that the planes were a lengthy shuttle bus ride away.
Cabin and Seat
Royal Jordanian normally operates an A319 or A320 on this route. Today’s flight was on the A320.
The business-class cabin had 16 seats arranged in a 2-2 layout.
The economy cabin had 120 seats arranged in a 3-3 layout.
Economy seats had a pitch of 32 inches and width of 17.7 inches. Even when fully boarded, this aircraft was only about 25% full, which made it very interesting that no award availability could be found in coach.
I was in 2H, a window seat, and there was no one next to me. Business class was less than half full, even though I got the last award seat.
When I took my seat, I was offered a cup of Arabic coffee from the flight attendant. The Jordanian people are incredibly friendly, and the FAs are no exception.
Later on in the boarding process, I was offered a choice of orange juice, apple juice or water. I also got a refill of Arabic coffee, a nice touch since the RJ Crown Lounge only had American-style coffee machines.
I’m 5’10” and the 46″ pitch provided more than enough leg room.
The business-class seats must have been beautiful in their prime, but the leather exterior showed the years.
While there was a controller for the IFE system in business and even the economy seats had their own screens, the flight was too short to offer entertainment.
Each business-class seat had its own USB power port and universal power outlet.
The seat recline controls were built into the armrest.
Full recline included a leg rest and was comfy and decent enough for a short-haul A320 business-class product. It reminded me of the business-class international product offered by US carriers long ago.
With the wide open business class, I was able to scoot across the aisle to get a shot of the Dead Sea. But I had to do it quickly — the fasten seat belt sign was only off for five minutes.
By the time we passed Tel Aviv and looped back around, the flight was only 30 minutes long, therefore there was no meal or beverage service during the flight. It was short, but a snack and drink of some sort could have been managed, at least for the very few business-class passengers. There was also no in-flight entertainment or Wi-Fi available, but the slight detour did give us a nice view of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean coast.
And just like that, we were on the ground in Tel Aviv.
With the ongoing tensions in the region between Israel and its neighbors over the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, I wondered if I’d have any issues at immigration coming from Jordan — I didn’t and was simply asked a couple of quick routine questions before being granted entry.
Note that Israel does not stamp your passport at TLV. Years ago, travelers with an Israeli stamp in their passports had issues entering Muslim-majority countries, so to avoid these issues, travelers had to ask Israeli immigration officials not to stamp them. Now, Israel just inserts a “stay permit” card in your passport, which states, “This document serves as a substitute for a stamp in your travel document” on the back.
This Royal Jordanian Crown Business flight experience wasn’t anything special — I’m not sure how it could have been considering it was only a 45-minute flight, but nothing about it remotely justified the ridiculous cost. In fact, now that economy award availability has opened up, I don’t see a good reason to book business class. RJ’s flagship lounge was a nice experience, but you can still get in with Priority Pass membership. Since I didn’t have any other flight options, this British Airways distance-based Oneworld award was the way to go, but the $177 in fees stung. In the end, I got where I needed to go, but I hope not to get stuck needing this route again.
Have you experienced Royal Jordanian’s short-haul business-class product or flagship lounge in Amman? Tell us about it, below.
Brian Biros is a veteran backpacker who has explored nearly 100 countries on a budget using points and miles to fly for free. He began contributing to The Points Guy after winning the “Into The Blue: Marathon to a Million” photo contest and scavenger hunt. Follow along with his travels on Instagram and read tales of his misadventures at www.biruvia.com.