Becoming the first Middle Eastern carrier to join a global airline alliance is clearly a source of pride for Royal Jordanian Airlines vice-chairman and chief executive Samer Majali, who has spent the past 15 months preparing the company for its 1 April accession to oneworld.
Majali says Amman-based Royal Jordanian had been “looking for an international alliance for years” as part of a desire to fulfil a vision set out by Jordan’s late King Hussein, who was keen for the airline to be seen as an ambassador for the country.
Royal Jordanian had to meet an extensive list of requirements ahead of its oneworld membership, which involved investing in a new airport handling system and changing its entire information technology (IT) system.
British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh, in his capacity as Royal Jordanian’s oneworld sponsor, says the carrier had to introduce a total of six new IT systems, which he adds was “unparalleled in the industry” and completed on schedule. Oneworld managing partner John McCulloch also praises Royal Jordanian for implementing the necessary changes “quicker and more efficiently that we had ever expected”.
Majali believes that Royal Jordanian’s dense regional network, which he says boasts the “largest number of international Middle East destinations of any Arab carrier” - including 24 flights a week into Iraq – made it an attractive candidate for oneworld membership. This belief is echoed by oneworld’s McCulloch, who says: “There are some very big and fast-growing airlines in this region, but size is not an important criterion for us. We are not interested in creating overlap and Royal Jordanian’s network and strategic plan is much more suited to us.”
Majali also believes that oneworld membership will boost the value of Royal Jordanian’s shares ahead of its planned privatisation, which is scheduled to take place at the end of this year. Due diligence information on the privatisation will be presented towards the end of this month in preparation for the majority of the carrier’s shares to be floated later in the year. Majali says the Jordanian Government, which will retain a 26% stake in the airline, will decide over the coming months on the number of shares to be made available to the private sector.
He adds that “all options are open”, and oneworld alliance partners will not be prevented from acquiring stakes, although he stresses that 51% of the carrier’s shares will be reserved for Jordanian investors.
As part of its fleet renewal programme, Royal Jordanian plans to take delivery of 12 Boeing 787s between 2010 and 2013 to replace its long-haul fleet of Airbus A310-300s and A340-200s. Majali says eight of the 787s will initially be leased from Boeing while the remaining four will be purchased. He adds that Royal Jordanian’s fleet renewal plan will also leave the carrier with 12 Airbus narrowbody aircraft and seven Embraer 145 regional jets.
The carrier spared no expense in celebrating its accession to oneworld with a gala dinner complete with a fireworks display on the shores of the Dead Sea, in the presence of members of the Jordanian royal family.
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