Royal Jordanian Airlines
Whenever my friends, family, and coworkers are explaining my travel habits to a newcomer, one of their first anecdotes to prove their point is generally, “she went to Jordan – for a LONG WEEKEND!” While I agree it was one of my more impulsive and abnormal trips, I had one secret weapon that made it shockingly feasible: Crown Class on Royal Jordanian airlines.
History of Royal Jordanian Airlines
Royal Jordanian is a 54 year old Amman, Jordan based airline, flying direct flights to Amman from the United States, Europe, Gulf, and Far East. Their US routes are some of the newest, out of Chicago’s O’Hare, NYC’s JFK, and Detroit! As a member of the OneWorld alliance, you can also fly connecting flights from many other cities on American Airlines.
Do you know what the Levant is? I didn’t until I flew RJ, but it’s the geographical area of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Jordan. Out of all of those countries, you can only fly direct from the United States into Amman, and only on Royal Jordanian Airlines. So not only can you use RJ to fly to Jordan, but you can connect through Amman to reach some other amazing destinations as well. I always prefer to take the longest leg of my flight first, because it minimizes the likelihood of travel issues. If you’re trying to get to the Middle East, it’s much better to be stuck on a layover in Amman, than it is to be stuck in NYC, DC, or Western Europe, where some international flights only happen once daily. If you miss a connection in your destination continent, it usually is only a few hours until the next flight to your final stop! Of course from smaller cities this isn’t always possible, but if you live in a large airport hub, it’s something to keep in mind.
Another term I would not be able to define off the top of my head is all of the countries that are considered Arab. The Arab league is made up of: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Out of all airlines from these 22 countries, Royal Jordanian was the first to be invited to join the OneWorld alliance, and the first to fly to the United States.
Royal Jordanian has seven Boeing 787 Dreamliners that traverse their routes every day. Joe and I found ourselves on the jet bridge boarding our first Royal Jordanian plane on his birthday: November 1, 2017. It was not a coincidence that our trip started on his birthday, though!
One of my daily computer routines is checking The Flight Deal. They have city-specific pages for NYC, San Francisco, LA, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Philly, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, and DC, as well as a general page for other cities. If you live in one of these cities, I definitely recommend throwing your city’s page a bookmark, and checking it every so often. One late July morning, I found myself clicking through my regular sites, and made it to the Flight Deal website. This morning was different, and something caught my eye. $500 DIRECT flights to Jordan from Chicago or NYC? I couldn’t believe it! This deal was valid for travel from mid-September – early December or January, 2018 – early March, 2018. (The articles are always clear about which months the deals are valid for, and any exclusion periods like Christmas and New Year’s.) Joe and my birthdays fall two days apart in early November, which fell into the validity periods. After a few quick searches, I found that we could go to Amman over our birthday weekend for this $500 economy fare.
2017 was a busy year for vacations, and between Joe’s upcoming Kilimanjaro trip in September, and our Vietnam trip over Thanksgiving, I knew taking any time off would be a stretch. I opted for an evening flight on Wednesday November 1st, returning Sunday November 5th, resulting in only two days off work. I asked Joe if he thought he could swing this for a surprise trip, and, knowing nothing about our itinerary or destination, he agreed (after an hour or two of consideration and reviewing his fall workload.) Once I got his go-ahead, I booked it! The good and bad thing about flight deals from any website or email subscription is that you have to act FAST. Within a few hours is best, but I always try to decide at least same-day to avoid disappointment. Our impulsiveness has landed us a $258 RT flight to Cartagena Colombia, and a $550 RT flight to Geneva, Switzerland.
The booking of a surprise trip ended up being an awesome birthday present idea, leading to weeks of fun hint dropping and guessing games. There were clues implying the trip was exotic: “neither of us have been to this country before”, “it will be warm when we are there,” as well as sneaky clues implying the trip was more typical: “it’s a direct flight,” “we’re only going for 4 days.” The reason Jordan stuck out to me, is when Joe and I were first dating, he mentioned his desire to see Petra someday, and I was shocked that as a relatively seasoned traveler (even pre-Joe,) that I had never heard of this destination. It led to lots of Google image searching, ogling over the incredible rose gold temples of an ancient city. So, I knew it was a destination he would be pumped about and appreciate (and hopefully result in excitement rather than stress from having 24 hours in the air for only 66 hours of vacation!)
The Crown Class Experience
So, back to the jetbridge. Immediately before the flight, Joe and I found out we had been upgraded to Crown Class. It was DEFINITELY the most ecstatic I’d ever been to board a plane, knowing I’d be riding in relaxing luxury over the next 11 hours during my first business or first class experience, coupled with the excitement that it was Joe’s birthday, and of course a few glasses of wine from the Priority Pass lounge. We stepped onto the plane, were directed to the left, and saw rows of huge seats two by two, the flight attendants wearing beautiful Jordanian dresses, and pouring from a traditional long-spouted dallah coffee pot. (A dallah we saw in Petra is pictured on the right.)
We settled in to our roomy seats, testing out the seat controls and rifling through our amenity kits, and staring dumbfoundedly at the gigantic television screens that sat in front of each of us. I think it outsized the TV I had in my first college dorm! Just when I thought I couldn’t be more excited, the flight attendants came to pass out the menus for the flight. I saw dinner and breakfast were full multi-course meals, and snacks were available throughout. I sat sipping on my Jordanian red while I pursued the menu, available in both Arabic and English.
The flight left at 9:45pm, so I was hungry for dinner. (That said – the direct flight has now moved from 9:45 to 7:00 pm! This is much more favorable, because you land in Jordan at 2:30pm instead of 4:15pm, giving you more of the day.) After a salad, roll, and smoked salmon appetizer, we got to choose our dinner selection. Grilled Beef Fillet Sonoran Style, Chicken Curry Thai Style, Sea Perch Fish Fillet, or Penne Pasta. Joe is infamous for loving plane food (a trait he miraculously maintained after getting food poisoning on a 12 hour flight from South Korea!) so he was very excited about all the options . I went for the filet with saffron rice, and also chose a chocolate dessert.
After dinner, it was time to use those fully reclining seats, and I laid back and slept soundly until it was time for breakfast. Don’t forget to use your yellow or red stickers indicating “Please wake me for my meal” or “Please do not disturb.” (Can every flight implement this!?) I will always choose the former, and was woken up in time to have my tray table dressed with a white tablecloth, and presented with pancakes, one of my favorite breakfasts, with a side of fruit and pastries. I began to be able to see things out the window as we descended into Amman, and I saw us pass over the Dead Sea, followed by tan hilly earth covered by monopoly-looking white houses.
We waited in line at customs for around 20 minutes, during which I had the fun experience of telling an Astros clad fan that his team had won the world series while we’d been on the flight (thanks international phone!) Once we passed through customs, we stopped at an ATM in the airport (always cheaper than exchanging money) and head out where our guide from Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp was waiting for us with a sign. Refreshed and relaxed, we left the airport as I took my first steps on Asian soil, and headed towards our first adventure of the weekend – Petra by Night.