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Back in December, James “The Deal Daddy”, flagged an early Christmas present flash deal – 55% off Royal Jordanian flights, meaning business class from LONDON to Bangkok for £1016.
I pulled the trigger, and in March managed to escape the Beast from the East with a week and a half in 35 degrees sunshine!
The trip meant I got to experience 4 sectors on Royal Jordanian (RJ), so I feel I had a pretty good representation of their overall service.
Booking & Pre-Flight
Due to high volumes of traffic during the flash sale, Royal Jordanian’s website crumbled. Instead, I had to download their mobile app and book through that. This meant I couldn’t build in a stopover in Amman as I would have liked, because the app can only handle straightforward one way/returns.
I was able to select seats in advance via the RJ.com website (once it had stopped being bombarded by bargain hunters). I managed to bag bulkhead seats for all sectors.
I attempted to check in online in London but only got errors. This wasn’t too much of an issue as we were checking bags anyway – the cause turned out to be a credit card security check. Luckily I did have the card I booked with me – there was no warning about requiring this in advance, but it is surprisingly common in air travel – so bear this in mind!
Unfortunately, it took the check-in staff approximately 20 mins to resolve this on the system at LHR which was a bit annoying, but was all resolved in the end.
Check-in for the return was much smoother, no credit card checks and able to check-in online.
In London, RJ fly from Terminal 3, which is excellent for lounges. As RJ is a member of oneworld – if flying in business class you can use any oneworld business class lounge in T3 – you are not limited to the BA lounge which they will give you an invitation for at check-in.
Instead we visited the Cathay Pacific and Qantas lounges. I won’t cover them in detail here – as it wouldn’t do them justice. Needless to say, Cathay is excellent for food, Qantas is the best for gins!
In Amman, there is RJ’s flagship “Crown Class Lounge” – which I will cover in a separate article.
In Bangkok, RJ have arranged access to the Thai Airways business class lounge – which frankly is awful. They didn’t make announcements, but had removed all the screens so you had to guess when your flight was departing. The seating was old and tired, with limited power points. The food was also limited and not particularly appealing. Unfortunately the flight leaves too late to be able to use the Cathay Pacific lounge, so you’re kind of stuck. Don’t go rushing to the airport early to spend any more time than necessary in this lounge!
The Seat & IFE
In their long-haul 787 fleet, Royal Jordanian use B/E Aerospace Diamond seats in a 2-2-2- layout, across 4 rows, giving a single cabin of 24 seats.
The cabin is as spacious and modern as you’d expect for a fairly new 787-8. The decision to not have overhead bins in the centre of the cabin really opens it up, and looks really cool with the mood lighting. I also think their external livery is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen!
I selected a bulkhead row for all the sectors as they have a larger footrest area. Rows 2-4 have a more restricted foot space as they fit between the seats in front, which you can see from the shape of the leg rest. If this might bother you, definitely try and bag a seat in Row 1.
The seats are an interesting colour… I personally wouldn’t have picked such light coloured leather but they weren’t dirty. I am just not convinced they will stay in such a nice state for too much longer…
Each seat had an individual air nozzle. This was really good for allowing you to regulate the temperature, as I have found on some overnight flights the cabins can be roasting!
The seat controls are simple and easy to use:
The seat reclines fully flat, and you can set it to anywhere you like in-between. The pillow provided is fairly large and well padded.
The blanket provided is fairly substantial without being too thick, and is large enough to ensure you are well covered when you want to sleep.
Once reclined, a small reading light at the back of the seat reveals itself.
To the side of the seat is a small storage area, where you can keep a bottle of water, headphones, tablet etc. but not much else.
Also in this area is a universal power port, headphone socket and USB charger. On a couple of my sectors the universal power didn’t work – I am not sure whether it was broken or just not turned on, but the USB was sufficient for keeping my phone topped up.
Annoyingly, the headphone socket was 3 pins, meaning you had to use the provided headsets. Whilst they were “noise cancelling”, they were very uncomfortable after watching a single movie. I also found 1 out of the 2 headsets between myself and my partner on 2 sectors were broken. Why can’t airlines just use standard headphone sockets to allow you to use your own headphones!?!
The screen was large, the touchscreen interface pretty responsive, and fairly good quality. One slightly irritating thing is the position of the IFE remote, which was easily knocked when your seat is fully reclined.
The IFE had a fair amount of English content, including a few recent releases such as Dunkirk, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and The Shape of Water.
Interestingly they had been edited to remove any swear words but violence was apparently perfectly fine and untouched… there were a lot of people being told to “flip off” in Kingsman whilst being punched/stabbed/shot!
On 2 of our 4 sectors, the in-flight map didn’t work. On a new system this was very surprising, and disappointing. On our final sector from AMM to LHR, the map wouldn’t update with the full information, instead if you exited and reloaded, it would update with your approximate position but nothing else – very weird!
Overall the seat was very comfortable and is a great seat for travelling with a companion. Due to the proximity and limited privacy I probably wouldn’t be so comfortable travelling alone.
Food & Drink
Food & drink on board varied in quality depending on where it was catered. Food from London and Amman was good, Bangkok not so much!
The drinks selection was OK. Champagne is Taittinger Brut Reserve, a solid choice for Business class. They also have a red & white Jordanian wine option which I thought were nice – and a great way to showcase Jordanian produce. On the spirits side, choices were average; Russian Standard vodka, Gordon’s gin etc.
Menu from London:
Menu from Amman to London:
There is no choice of starter. Unfortunately that meant a lot of salmon going to waste, as they seemed to favour it for starters and I hate it!
The main food service is done from a cart. This means you can see the food before you order it, and also make your own selection of accompaniments which I liked, but your meal times are fixed and not on-demand like regional rival Qatar.
From London the quality of the food was very good, and the beef masala was very tasty.
From Amman to Bangkok as takeoff was around 1:30am local time, only a snack was served after take-off, which was OK and just the right size. The main meal was breakfast (despite landing into Bangkok at 2pm!)
The breakfast choices were either Arabian style or Western, which consisted of a plain omelette, grilled chicken, mushrooms and tomato. This was very, very average and quite bland. They really should put some cheese or something into the omelette!
By far the worst meal on board, was from BKK to AMM. I should have known better than to choose pasta on a Middle Eastern airline catered in South East Asia…
From Amman to London, I chose to be brave and try the pepper steak. This was probably the best meal and the beef was actually very good quality considering it was an airplane meal!
The dessert options were good on all sectors, again served from a cart so you can see before you choose:
For the London sectors, it seemed the crew made more of an effort. For the longer Bangkok sector (which continues to Hong Kong), the service seemed a bit more slapdash.
On boarding in London, water bottles, amenity kits and headsets were waiting at every seat and pre-departure drinks service was prompt. When we unfortunately missed our push-back slot due to some late passengers and the captain announced a potential 2 hour delay, the crew sprang into action with another full drink and warm nuts service. Luckily that 2 hour delay improved to just 45mins!
In comparison, when leaving Amman to Bangkok, there were no water bottles at each seat (despite it being an overnight), amenity kits and headsets were handed out just before push back. There was no pre-departure drinks service except for Arabic coffee. The crew seemed a little distracted and running behind. There was an issue with the safety video which they tried to restart twice, then they decided to do a manual demonstration, but then changed their mind again and got the video to start on the third try. However, by this point we had already begun our taxi. This is the first flight I have been on where we actually took off whilst the safety video was still playing, the cabin lights were not dimmed and I’m pretty sure some passengers still had coffee cups…
Other than the above odd take-off preparation, the crew were courteous and smiling on all sectors. The service was not particularly proactive but the crew responded with ninja-like speed to the call bell. My partner commented that the staff didn’t seem particularly chatty and a bit robotic in their interactions. I think this is something travellers need to bear in mind when flying airlines where English is not the primary language of the majority of the crew. Some of the staff were not Jordanian, so potentially English was a third or more language for them (as they also had to be fluent in Arabic). This means small-talk can be difficult or uncomfortable for them, but when it came to standard service requests they were courteous and efficient.
Where to credit?
I credited my flights to BA Executive club. This should net me 560 Tier Points which will pretty much secure my renewal of Silver status, and 16,318 Avios. Unfortunately the interface between BAEC and RJ is notoriously RUBBISH – so 3 weeks after my first flight I still haven’t had anything post.
Bear this in mind if you are relying on any RJ flights for status, KEEP ALL YOUR BOARDING PASS STUBS. You will need these when you inevitably have to submit your manual claim to BA (via Fax…!?!)
Overall, I would say Royal Jordanian offers an “OK” business class product, especially when travelling as a couple. The seat and service were perfectly decent for the trip halfway around the world, and the fleet of modern 787’s makes the experience quite pleasant. You also know exactly what product you are going to get, unlike the seat roulette you can end up playing with the other middle eastern competitors with their disparate fleets.
I would choose to fly RJ again, if the price and schedule were right. This is not, however, an aspirational product that you should be seeking to fly for the “experience”.
Bear in mind though, that the RJ 787s offer a good quality and modern option for the relatively short flight to Amman, against the mid-haul configured A321’s that BA fly between London and Amman (occasionally BA even switches these with a short-haul configured A320 which means Economy seats and legroom even in ‘Business Class’!).