New flights to Jordan (from the UK)

jordanheartI know this looks like link promotion, or a hamfisted attempt at DIY SEO, but it’s really not – there have just been some recent innovations on flights to Jordan from the UK, which I thought I’d highlight. Nothing in this post earns me a penny.

For years, two aspects of air travel from the UK to Jordan have hamstrung tourism growth. One has been unsociable flight times, which forced British tourists to effectively ‘lose’ two days either side of their trip on late-night arrivals and early-morning departures. The other has been the limited or non-existent access to airports other than Amman.

Aside from the unveiling of the shiny new terminal at Amman airport (warning: autostart video) – a success, from what I’ve read – there have been interesting developments on both fronts.

Cheapest option

First, the cheapest option from the UK to Jordan is still EasyJet from Gatwick to Amman. At the moment they go three times a week (Tues, Thurs & Sun), departing Gatwick’s North Terminal (*eyeroll*) 12.50pm lunchtime, arriving Amman 8pm. The turnaround is quick, departing Amman 8.45pm, landing back in Gatwick just after midnight.

In late-Oct 2013 that drops to two flights a week: Sundays roughly on the above model of lunchtime departure/evening return, and Thursdays departing LGW 9.15am, arriving AMM 4.25pm, then departing AMM 5.10pm to land back in Gatwick 8.50pm.

Prices remain low. On a test booking today, six months in advance, I could get a week’s return in late November/early December 2013 for a pretty unbeatable £149.98 (hand-baggage only, pay by debit card) – well under half the price of any other option, and one-third the fare of the nonstop legacy carriers.

Mornings, afternoons & overnight

Over at Heathrow, Jordan’s national carrier – what does that even mean? – Royal Jordanian is sticking to its time-honoured schedule, which is designed principally to serve connecting traffic to/from the US and Asia rather than to suit point-to-point travellers.

Their once-daily flights depart Heathrow Terminal 3 around 5pm, landing in Amman just after midnight – which, if you add in airport formalities, a forty-minute drive into the city and hotel check-in, means your head won’t realistically hit the pillow until 2am. That’s Day 1 of your holiday used up on the flight, and Day 2 undermined by tiredness. RJ’s return flights leave Amman around midday – which means your last day in Jordan involves an early breakfast and the airport highway – to bring you back to Heathrow around 3.30pm.

At British Airways, by contrast, schedules to Amman have been completely revamped, and bumped up to 11 flights a week. Daily flights from Heathrow Terminal 1 (until T1 is demolished, perhaps in 2014) depart around 9am, landing in Amman at 4pm, then turn round to depart AMM 5.30pm, landing back at Heathrow just before 9pm.

If you can handle that 7am check-in time, that means Day 1 of your holiday would finish up rather nicely, with a spot of sightseeing, a sunset drink and dinner. At the end of your trip you could wake up anywhere in Jordan (city, desert, seaside, mountains), have a generous half-day out and about, and still get to the airport in time to check in. From Petra, say, it’s only 200km to the airport, driveable in a bit over 2 hours.

And BA is also throwing an intriguing new option into the mix – four days a week (Mon, Wed, Fri & Sat) it now has an overnight flight to Amman. Until October 2013, it departs Heathrow 10.20pm, arriving Amman 5.25am; after October, times change slightly. It’s short – realistically, you’ll only get at most a gritty-eyed four hours’ sleep in your seat – but it lets you hit the ground running in Jordan. The return is a 9am departure (Tue, Thu, Sat & Sun), landing at Heathrow just after midday.

Return fares on either BA or RJ start around £450. Why so high? Mumble mumble, market forces, mumble mumble, difficult times, mumble mumble, nobody really knows.

If you’re collecting miles, they’re both in the oneworld alliance.

One-stop options: hello Aqaba

aqabasilhouetteThere are lots of options for one-stop flights on a welter of airlines out of most UK airports – Lufthansa via Frankfurt, Air France via Paris and loads more. One to note is Turkish Airlines. They’re often the cheapest of the full-service carriers – but are part of the Star Alliance partnership and have a good reputation.

As well as Amman, they’ve also recently started flying into Aqaba, Jordan’s southernmost city on the Red Sea beaches. This opens up previously elusive open-jaw possibilities (bizarrely, none of Royal Jordanian’s domestic shuttles Amman-Aqaba is timed to coincide with the arrival of their Heathrow flight).

And Turkish fly out of Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh, opening up travel for non-London types.

The only problem? Utterly mad flight times.

They fly twice daily Istanbul-Amman, departing at either 8.20pm (arrives 11.15pm) or a cheery 2.20am (arrives 5.15am).

So if you’re starting from Birmingham or Manchester, you’ll depart at 4pm, have four hours layover in Istanbul airport (10pm-2am) and then about two and a half hours in the air to “sleep” before landing in Amman in the pre-dawn gloom. Fresh as a daisy.

The godawful returns depart Amman at 2.40am (arrives Istanbul 5.35am), or 7am (arrives 10am).

Turkish’s Aqaba flights (3 weekly: Wed, Fri & Sun) are even nuttier. Depart Istanbul 12.30am, arrive Aqaba 3am, with the return departing Aqaba 4am, arriving Istanbul 6.30am. Enjoy weaving THAT into your holiday plans.

But at least they exist. As I’ve written elsewhere, Aqaba airport is perhaps Jordan’s single most under-used national asset. Bar a sprinkling of seasonal Scandinavian or east European charter flights, it is a full-size international airport in the middle of the country’s premier tourist region – within easy reach of Petra, Wadi Rum and the Red Sea beaches – standing effectively empty. One nonstop flight a week from a handful of key European hubs could inject new vigour into Jordanian tourism, cutting out the need to loop back overland to Amman, opening up new tours, new ways of visiting, new markets. It’s an investment opportunity. It’s a vehicle for growth.

Oh never mind. Nobody listens to me 🙂