Carrier follows Oneworld commitment with strategy to expand its main base

Royal Jordanian is to finalise a deal to acquire 15 regional jets by the end of this year, to develop its Amman base as a regional hub following its commitment to join the Oneworld alliance.

The carrier is the first Arab airline to join a major group, adding 10 destinations and two countries, Yemen and Iraq, to the alliance’s network. It will become a full member around the beginning of 2007.

Royal Jordanian chief executive Samer Majali says that the airline is “on the verge” of concluding an agreement to take 70- to 100-seat regional aircraft, to be phased in over three years from 2006. While the carrier will not confirm the type, a source familiar with the deal indicates that the airline is taking Embraer 170/190s.

“We will use these aircraft on high-frequency routes to Arab capitals and to connect every secondary destination in the Arab world with Amman,” says Majali.

He adds that Royal Jordanian will look towards phasing out its Airbus A340s and A310s in around two or three years and sees the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 as “ideal” replacements. The carrier is renewing its narrowbody fleet with Airbus A320/A321s.

Oneworld has only one carrier, affiliate BMed Airways, serving the Jordanian market while Royal Jordanian has bilateral agreements with just a single Oneworld member, Spanish flag carrier Iberia.

Majali says that Oneworld has been attracted by Royal Jordanian’s reinforcement of routes from Amman, plus the airline’s plans to invest heavily in passenger services, information technology, and electronic ticketing.

Royal Jordanian has strong links with several Star Alliance carriers including US Airways, Austrian Airlines and Thai Airways International. Majali says that these agreements will stay in place – an advantage which attracted the airline to the rival alliance.

“If we wish to co-operate with carriers outside Oneworld, then it’s no problem for them,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we chose Oneworld. We thought the fit was good, it’s open and liberal, and it allows carriers to remain independent. That’s a primary reason why we accepted.”

Despite IATA’s urging Middle East operators to examine alliance potential, rivals Star Alliance and SkyTeam have yet to sign up their own Arab and Gulf members.

Source: Flight International