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Royal Jordanian’s business-class is a solid option for flying to the Middle East and a great use of American AAdvantage miles. The Pros: Comfortable lie-flat seats and access to AA’s new Flagship Lounge at JFK. The Cons: A subpar amenity kit and no Wi-Fi.
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Anything that’s considered to be off-the-beaten-path for tourists — at least for American travelers — is usually something that piques my interest, so when a friend asked if I wanted to go to Lebanon this summer, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the “Paris of the Middle East.” I still had to figure out how to get to Beirut, though. There are no nonstop flights from the US and after a quick search, I found that the best option was to fly on Royal Jordanian’s 787 from New York (JFK) to Amman (AMM), then connect to Beirut (BEY). I usually book economy, but opted to splurge on business class this time around, especially since it allowed me to use up some of the American AAdvantage miles that had been burning a hole in my pocket.
I really didn’t have too much flexibility on my travel dates so I was really hoping I’d be able to find award availability through AA. Eventually, I was able to find a business-class seat on Royal Jordanian, one of AA’s Oneworld partners, from New York to Beirut via Amman. It can be harder to use AA miles for business-class flights these days — the carrier is notoriously stingy and one of its partners, British Airways, usually tacks on ridiculously high fuel surcharges. Note that if you’re going to the Middle East, you can also try to redeem AAdvantage miles on Qatar Airways. I had little trouble finding Saver level seats in business and economy on Royal Jordanian, which offered connections to other destinations in the area, too, so you’ll have plenty of options to connect.
I redeemed 70,000 American AAdvantage miles, which I received mostly from a 60,000 mile sign-up bonus thanks to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. What I love about this card is that you actually receive 10% of your redeemed miles back every year, so I ended up getting 7,000 of my miles back for this business seat redemption, meaning I essentially used 63,000 miles for this flight. I also redeemed 40,000 miles for an economy seat for my return trip, which in turned saved me another 3,000 miles. The 10,000 miles I got back are worth $140 according to TPG’s monthly valuations, which more than covers the card’s $95 annual fee (which Citi will usually waive anyway).
One-way business class flights were going for $2,592 at the time, so I got about 4.1 cents per mile in value at the 63,000 mile rate, which is pretty amazing considering how little AA miles can be worth these days — TPG currently values them at just 1.4 cents apiece. Even at 70,000 miles, I’d be getting 3.7 cents per mile in value. Taxes for the round-trip itinerary came to $71.46 , which I paid for with my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, earning me an additional 214 Ultimate Reward points since the card lets you earn 3x points on all travel purchases.
The best way to book this flight is through American Advantage, as going through Oneworld partner British Airways would have cost 90,000 Avios plus $173 in taxes one-way. Alternatively, if you try to book through Iberia with Iberia Avios, you’ll only be able to book a round-trip flight and the carrier will charge hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees.
Check-In and Lounge
Checking in at the airport was quick and easy. Royal Jordanian flies out of Terminal 8 at JFK, which is also home to American Airlines and other international airlines like Qatar Airways and LATAM.
To get into the lounge, you’ll receive a pass from the RJ check-in agents. You can also access the lounge if you’re a Oneworld elite or AA Concierge Key member, if you’re flying in AA business or Flagship First or have the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which gives you access to all Admirals Club lounges.
One of my favorite parts of this trip was experiencing AA’s new Flagship Lounge at JFK which opened earlier this year — there’s another AA lounge in the terminal as well, but make sure you go to this one because it’s truly top-notch. The Flagship Lounge is open from 4:15am to 11:00pm every day.
There are a lot of seating options throughout the lounge, and most are comfortable and look chic.
When you walk into the space, you’ll notice a large room full of couches and comfy chairs on your left. This is a “quiet room” and seemed like a great place to take a nap.
Many of the seats had multiple power and USB outlets so you could charge your devices. Wi-Fi speeds were fine and I was able to stream video without any issues. To the left of these seats were six workstations with computers and printers.
Here’s a look at the seating near the bar.
In case you couldn’t find a seat near the bar, there was another large area nearby with tons of other seats to choose from.
Another highlight of this lounge was the self-serve all-you-can-drink Champagne perk featuring Bollinger Champagne Special Cuvee, which gets 93 points from Wine Spectator, putting it in the “outstanding” category. Despite it being self-serve, several lounge employees were more than happy to help and came over to pour glasses for me.
Next to the Champagne was a selection of rosé, white and red wine.
I didn’t have access to AA’s Flagship First Dining, the new restaurant-style dining feature that has seriously elevated American’s dining game. Instead, I had to make do with a hot and cold buffet.
A variety of cold salads, noodles, veggies and bread were available, while hot food items included chicken, toasted barley pilaf and pan-seared salmon.
I chose a couple of different items and grabbed a window seat so I could indulge my AvGeek side and check out all the departing flights. The chicken was tender, moist and tasted great. I tried the curry tofu, which was surprisingly tasty. The cauliflower and potato, which I’m usually not a fan of, had some nice seasonings and was very fresh.
If you want to make yourself a mixed drink, there are plenty of spirits and you can even top it off with garnishes like maraschino cherries or orange slices.
To the right of the soda and liquor was a fridge full of beer, bottled water and San Pellegrino.
The shower rooms were brand new and super clean so I took a piping hot shower right before my flight, which felt great. The lounge has eight showers and all come with a wrapped package containing a new towel, washcloth, hand towel and bath mat.
Note that around 7:30pm, the lounge started getting crowded before all the red-eye departures, so I’d recommend getting there early to fully enjoy it. I was really impressed by AA’s new lounge and loved that they didn’t skimp on anything — starting my journey here definitely added to the overall Royal Jordanian experience.
Cabin and Seat
As a business-class passenger, I was able to board first and take some photos of the empty Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Royal Jordanian started flying these back in 2014 and has slowly built its 787 fleet. The one I was on, registered JY-BAH, was delivered in January 2017, which meant I’d be flying a relatively new bird for this 10.5-hour journey. The business-class cabin is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration with a total of 24 seats.
I chose my seat, 2D, at check in so I’d have direct-aisle access. Note that I wasn’t able to choose my seat online before checking in, most likely because I had booked through American Airlines — it might be a good idea to call Royal Jordanian once check-in opens so you can choose your seat.
Unlike most newer business-class cabins that have introduced seats where everyone has direct-aisle access — like United Polaris or Delta One’s A350 — you won’t find that on Royal Jordanian, so if you’re in a window seat, you’ll have to climb over your neighbor to get up and go to the bathroom.
The footwell was pretty small and I definitely had to squeeze my feet into it. If you need more space for your feet, make sure you grab a seat in row 1.
You’ll find universal power outlets and USB ports to left of the headrest, as well as a tiny storage area.
You can arrange the lie-flat seats in multiple positions — below, it’s pictured halfway reclined. Once you’re in the reclining position, a tiny reading light is revealed so you can read before you fall asleep.
Fully flat, the seats measured 78 inches long and 19 inches wide, although Seatguru claims they are 21 inches wide. The website also states the seats have 60 inches of pitch. I found them to be comfy and spacious, in both their fully flat and upright positions.
The seat controls are built into the center armrest.
The bedding was perfect and kept me warm throughout the entire flight. I was able to fall asleep quickly and the seats were pleasant enough that I slept through most of the flight. I’m 6’1″ and didn’t feel cramped at all.
Between business class and the economy cabin, there was a small area where you could stretch your legs. It looked like the table might be a place where there were snacks and drinks, but I didn’t see any during the flight. The faux wood floors were a nice touch, too.
The main area where I thought Royal Jordanian fell flat was with the amenity kits, which came with all the basics, like socks, an eye mask, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, lotion and chapstick, all provided by Acqua Colonia. The bag it came in was rather drab and didn’t come close to Delta’s Tumi hard shell case or Emirates’ Bvlgari amenity kit. The quality of the products inside it was pretty low too — the socks and eye mask were very thin.
Before we departed, flight attendants distributed the amenity kits, headphones and a hot towel. The noise-cancelling headphones were comfy and worked fine during the flight.
There were two bathrooms in the forward cabin and I found both of them to be clean but pretty small. Each was stocked with hand cream and eau de cologne.
Food and Beverage
After receiving my amenity kit and headphones, the flight attendants served a choice of juice or coffee (American or Arabic).
Royal Jordanian offered three white and three red wines. As for Champagne, it was Taittinger Brut Réserve, which goes for about $45 a bottle on the ground. There were also a few beers and the carrier didn’t skimp on the aperitif and liquor selections.
Dinner was a three-course affair with appetizers and a salad, the main course and a small dessert.
The appetizer was fantastic — crab tar tar, shrimp and hummus on cucumber and some sort of meat-date combination, a delicious blend of savory and sweet.
For dinner, I got the rigatoni with chicken and rice, which came with a side of veggies and potatoes. The rigatoni was okay, while the chicken, prepared in a Middle Eastern style, definitely made the meal worthwhile.
I ended the dinner service with a scoop of strawberry ice cream and some Champagne.
When I woke up, the flight attendants quickly came over and asked what I wanted for breakfast. The pancakes were served with an amazingly fresh strawberry sauce that made the somewhat spongy cake seem more than edible.
I thought the service was great — flight attendants were attentive and did everything with a smile.
The IFE screen was massive — you’ll get a full 17″ of HD goodness to watch movies and TV.
The screen is touch sensitive, or you can use the controller to operate the console. One of my biggest pet peeves about IFE units on airplanes is that the touch screens are usually incredibly unresponsive. I’m happy to report that this was not the case with Royal Jordanian, so you won’t have any issues scrolling through a movie or TV show to find the spot where you left off.
Royal Jordanian had a substantial amount of entertainment choices, but I’ve definitely seen more on other carriers like Qatar. There were new movies, TV shows and basic video games like Pac Man and Battleship, with a solid amount of Hollywood films, too.
The fully customizable airshow lets you track your journey in all kinds of ways.
Unfortunately, you won’t find Wi-Fi on any of Royal Jordanian’s 787s, which is disappointing considering it’s such a new fleet.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Royal Jordanian’s business class. It was easy to book and you’ll actually be able to find award availability through American Airlines. The AA Flagship Lounge at JFK was a great way to start my journey. RJ’s hard product is comfortable and still feels new even though not every seat has direct-aisle access. Its soft product wasn’t bad at all either and could be easily fixed if there was a nicer amenity kit. My only real complaint was the lack of Wi-Fi for such a new fleet. Aside from that, iIf you’re planning a trip to Jordan or another Middle Eastern destination, Royal Jordanian makes a great option.
Have you ever flown on Royal Jordanian? Tell us about your experience, below.
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