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 🙂

 

14 Comments

  1. Richard Nield

    nice post Matthew. i remember on my trip in April agonising between a BA night flight followed by a day being too tired to work and a Royal Jordanian schedule that is anything but user-friendly but at least would get me there in time for a sleep in a bed before work the next day. I went with RJ in the end, and it worked out, but it wasn’t a straightforward choice…

    1. Matthew Teller

      Thanks, Richard. I had the same conversation with a Jordanian former Minister of Tourism once. His office had put him on the BA night flight. He wasn’t happy. Or focused.

  2. Tony Howard

    Hi Mathew, I forget the precise times of our Turkish Air Manchester – Istanbul – amman flight but it leaves Mcr at a good time, gives us about one hour in Istanbul airport to get a coffee and the Amman flight which arrives around midnight, so not bad at all. On the return, departure time pre-dawn isn’t good but we disembark in Istanbul and get a full day and stay for 3 nights. Istanbul dep time is OK and arrival in Mcr around midday is excellent. And the price is good!

    1. Matthew Teller

      hi Tony, many thanks for that. Yes, if you can split the journey to spend time in Istanbul (or any of the connection points), that’s ideal – and counteracts the misery of pre-dawn check-in! Glad you found a good price.

    1. Matthew Teller

      Thanks, Sameh. Interesting. But that is, I’m afraid, pure speculation – and anyway, the article only really talks about “negotiations” and “working to provide incentives”. Apart from Turkish it only names two other airlines as being in the frame: easyJet and “Royal” (who or what is “Royal”?).

      To my knowledge, there have been “negotiations” about “incentives” for European flights into Aqaba airport for at least five years. And still nothing 🙂

      Let’s hope, eh?

  3. Sameh Abu-Jarour

    I think Matthew that this time its for real.. http://www.alghad.com/index.php/article/620273.html Here is another story in alghad straight from the ASEZA guy and the Jordan Tourism Board. They are giving incentives and cheap slots, so its looks for real now…Inshallah 🙂

  4. Баженов (@georgebaz)

    We flew to Sharm El Sheikh with THY last year, benefiting from their insane promotion at that time. Our connection flight from Istanbul took off after 2 AM and it was hard having spent the day on the Bosporus. So now I feel tempted to fly THY to Aqaba but the timetable is crazy again. Why is the Free Economic Zone in Aqaba is so elusive for me?

    1. Matthew Teller

      Not just you, George!

  5. Matthew Teller

    Thanks, Sameh – but that’s the same source that the previous story came from. There’s nothing really here, other than “plans” and “negotiations” and “ASEZA is working to provide incentives”. As I said, to my knowledge ASEZA has been “working to provide incentives” for years now.

    Once we hear something from another source – an airline, say, or even an aviation journalist – then there’s a story. Until then, it’s all just speculation and wishful thinking. Sorry 🙂

    As for “cheap slots”, the idea that ASEZA is expecting anyone – least of all EasyJet – to actually pay real money to land at Aqaba shows how far away things really are. It’s the other way round: the reason EasyJet isn’t already flying to Aqaba is because ASEZA won’t (or can’t) pay the millions that EasyJet is no doubt demanding to launch the route.

    EasyJet doesn’t need Jordan, not even a tiny little bit. Jordan, however, desperately DESPERATELY needs EasyJet. Or Ryanair. Or anyone. I’m very worried about EasyJet dropping the Gatwick-Amman route if passenger numbers drop too low; heaven knows they could probably make more money sending the plane elsewhere. Jordan should be bending over backwards to do whatever the airlines ask, at AMM and AQJ both. Without tourist flights, the country is sunk.

    But, apparently, not everybody sees it that way.

  6. petitepaumee

    Interesting article. I’ve only ever flown from the US to Jordan so while the overall flight time is long, the flight timings are relatively normal (apart from the return leg, when I’ve had to fly out of Amman at 3 AM). The new terminal really is very clean and well-organized, hopefully you’ll get a chance to see it you soon.
    Just discovered your blog through wordpress and will decidedly read much more – I’ve only recently started traveling to the Middle East and am eager to read your impressions!

    1. Matthew Teller

      Thanks so much, petite – great to see you here. I flew through the new terminal at Amman last month: I was very impressed – open, airy, calm, pleasant, free wifi. Could do with a few more directional signs, but that’s not too much of a hindrance.

      Look forward to hearing more from you!

  7. MR Tareq

    What airline will take over from easy ejt now, was from lgw to amman. I was toled there is one will start on 1st of may if u know please kindly do inform me asap many thanks to u all from Tareq

    1. Matthew Teller

      As far as I know, no airline flies LGW-AMM any more.

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