Royal Jordanian wins oneworld invite

Royal Jordanian is to become the first airline from the region to join a global alliance, after it was invited to join oneworld.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  November 2, 2005

Royal Jordanian is to become the first airline from the region to join a global alliance, after it was invited to join oneworld. The Jordanian carrier, which was the first airline to be invited to join oneworld in five years, will spend the next year readying itself under the sponsorship of BA. In a parallel project, the airline is also restructuring and boosting its regional services, including ordering 15 regional jets, in order to provide better local connections for both its own and oneworld’s passengers. RJ expects to become a full member of oneworld around the turn of 2006/07. The airline will add at least 10 new destinations to oneworld’s network, as well as giving its member carriers access to Yemen and Iraq. In turn, RJ will instantly expand its network around the world, by linking up with BA, American Airlines, Iberia and the other oneworld carriers’ operations. Its existing codeshare deals with Star alliance members, including Austrian, Thai and America West/US Airways will also remain in place. “Joining oneworld is a key part of our strategy,” said Samer Majali, RJ’s president & CEO. “It is in tune with our ambition to privatise and to strengthen Amman’s role as a regional hub,” he added. Although the airline had to pass an extensive audit before it received its invite, Royal Jordanian still needs to take a number of steps over the next year or so before it can become a full oneworld member. In particular, it needs to complete a number of IT projects, including finishing its e-ticketing rollout, deploying self-service check-in kiosks and implementing a more advanced frequent flyer programme. However, while these are necessary for joining oneworld, Majali does not see them as additional expenses. “These [projects] are all necessary for RJ anyway, whether or not we joined an alliance, but they have been accelerated by the oneworld requirement,” he said. “It’s as if our strategy and oneworld’s strategy have come together.” The same is also true in terms of route development, as RJ is already committed to boosting connections from Amman to points across the region. This will improve RJ’s local services, as well as giving oneworld greater connectivity across the Middle East. “The target is to fly to every Arab capital multiple times per day,” said Majali. “The ones that we don’t fly to everyday now, we want to fly to daily; the ones that are now daily, we want to fly double-daily and so on,” he explained. “Plus, we want to connect every secondary destination in the Arab World with direct services from Amman… This all takes advantage of liberalisation in the market, open skies, and the ability for countries to open up their secondary destinations faster than their primary destinations, which are still very heavily restricted,” he continued. To support this goal, RJ is planning to purchase a fleet of 15 regional jets. The deal for the aircraft, which are understood to be Embraer 170/190s, should be announced before the end of the year. “We are on the verge of making an announcement to introduce probably 15 regional jets over the next three years,” said Majali. “This addition to our fleet in the 70-100 seat range will compliment the narrowbody and widebody fleet that we have.” The airline is also restructuring its regional operations to smooth connections for passengers. Traditionally, regional services have been handled by RJ’s subsidiary Royal Wings out of Marka airport in Amman using Q300 turboprops. However, Royal Wings has now become a purely charter operator flying a single A320, to start with, out of Marka. Meanwhile, the scheduled regional routes, such as Allepo, Aqaba, Damascus and Sharm el Sheikh, are being shifted to Queen Alia International, Amman’s main airport, where they will be flown by a new brand, RJ Xpress. It will operate two Q400 turboprops, on leases from Bombardier, which are the first of their type in the region, and one of Royal Wings’ existing Q300s. The first Q400 has already arrived in Amman, with the second due next month. “Moving regional routes to Queen Alia will make it a lot easier for our international passengers to catch their onward flights,” commented Geoffrey Weston, RJ’s head of network & planning.

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