It's been a long time we wished to fly Royal Jordanian. For some odd reason, indeed. We could have logically chosen RJ because it sells a much cheaper business class (almost 40% less compared with Emirates and Etihad on CDG – BKK). Or because it is ranked as one of the safest airlines in the world, developing its new fleet and operating the amazing B787-8 Dreamliner. Not to forget Embraer 175 / 195, operating attractive short-haul destinations, and making you feel like seating in a private jet. Well, no: the reason was not that concrete, but purely aesthetic. We do love their aircraft superb livery, which represents for millions flyers the nec plus ultra in term of airlines design. Publishing this review, we are observing the model which stands on our writing desk, and which all our visitors like to handle with admiration: a dark grey fuselage with the titles in gold both in English and Arabic, red tips on the fins, winglets and engines, as well as two strips, one gold and one red, down the fuselage, with a gold crown on the fin. Our question was: does such a good taste and sophistication extends to the service and comfort? From the mediocre Skytrax three star ranking, we would have been expecting disappointment if the flyers forums -and some readers- would not have convinced us that RJ was well worth the experience.
There is a daily flight from Paris-CDG to Amman-AMM Queen Alia. RJ118 leaves CDG at 12:15 (arriving in AMM at 17:35) or 16:50 (arriving 22:10), depending on the day. The second flight would have been perfect for a short transit in AMM on our way to BKK; but we rather chose the second option, allowing more time to explore the new international terminal and fully enjoy the Crown Lounge. We wanted to transform this business trip into a relaxing, enjoyable journey.
The flight departure time was ideally scheduled: we checked-in a couple of hours before boarding, avoiding the peak traffic hours between Paris downtown and Roissy. Except a group of clergymen, there were still no passengers queuing at the Economy and Crown Class desks. We had only 25 kilograms of luggage, and didn't use the limit of two pieces 30 + 23 kgs, plus two bags 7 + 7 kgs in cabin (economy class passengers can bring one piece 30 kgs -instead of 23 with most airlines- and one bag 7kg in cabin). A generous luggage allowance does matter on shopping destinations like Bangkok, Hong Kong or New York for instance. The ground staff was active and welcoming. It took exactly 3 minutes to check our visa, clear our luggage and give us the best seat... though everybody got the “best seat” in fact:, with no neighbour to feel more at ease, as the business class cabin was half full.
We received a voucher for the lounge. We used it as a “fast track”, avoiding queues at the immigration/police control. It worked. But we had been redirected to the economy class line for security check. CDG operates strangely sometimes... We asked our way to the Royal Jordanian Lounge to an ADP employee, and were told that they don't have their own: using the new American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge instead. AA isn't that much reputed for the quality of its services, and we experienced Admirals Club in JFK recently without much enthusiasm. We have therefore been positively surprised by the smart design, impressive volume of the lounge, and more than decent F&B: with a fair selection of snacks, light meals (quiche, salad...), pastries, liquors (but with cheap Crémant d'Alsace instead of Champagne...) and excellent espresso coffee. Great choice of newspapers and magazines also. We particularly liked the large seats oriented to the runways, from where we could observe the aerial ball of planes landing and taking off. After we had left the lounge in the direction of the boarding gate, we met on our way a RJ representative who told us: “-Why did you stay at Admirals Club? You should rather used Etihad Lounge: it has great food with woks cooked especially for you, and serves the best wines. We are member, like Etihad, of the Oneworldalliance, and RJ passengers are entitled to use Etihad Lounge in CDG as well”. We shall keep it in mind for next time. Just like we shall remember that the RJ “Royal Plus” frequent flyer program allows its members to use their miles with more than 30 affiliated carriers like Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, OpenSkies, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, S7 Airlines, SriLankan and TAM.
Our flight was on time. Crown Class passengers are entitled to priority boarding; though most of them prefer to wait until the last call not to be bothered by the flood of Economy Class passengers transiting throughout the business class cabin. On Airbus A320, only one door gives access to both classes. All passengers were warmly greeted by the cabin crew. We have been impressed by the comfort of the business class cabin, featuring only 8 large (21 ' width) leather seats, with an ideal pitch (46') and equipped with footrest. We didn't expect that much for a four hours and twenty minutes middle-haul flight. It was all perfectly clean and in good condition. The toilet was immaculate, with hand cream from the Dead Sea and one of our favourite Cologne (“4711 Kölnisch Wasser”). We heard about the Oriental tradition of very last minute upgrade to the friends -and already experienced it- quickly filling the front cabin; it seems that it doesn't apply anymore with RJ. It results in a cool cabin, with plenty of place to relax. Our overcoat, jacket and hat had been carefully sent to the cloakroom by the splendid Jordanian-Russian stewardess, who presented us some magazines -in English and Arabic- and one glass of orange juice before taking off. The captain came to greet all of us. We can't tell if it happens all the time: maybe was it for the presence of the delegation of high-ranking clergymen which checked-in with us. Anyhow, we immediately felt the fascinating Jordanian tradition of hospitality.
Everything was traditional and hospitable during that short flight, indeed. Stewardesses are front-liners, and do a lot for the image of the airline. This was our pleasure to be presented one cup of authentic “qahwa arabiyyah” (Arabic coffee with cardamom) by a well-groomed, nice-looking lady in embroidered regional dress. We just finished sipping it when she came back with some pistachios, peanuts, and a bottle of Taittinger Brut Réserve. This was the unique -but prestigious- brand of Champagne available on “The Cellar” wine-list. She didn't forget to tie a white napkin around the neck of the bottle, the “sommelier way”, deliciously old-school, and poured the well chilled bright citrine-yellow liquid into a flute-glass engraved with a golden royal crown. WOW! We clearly realized that RJ was flying high.
Our appetizer was a classic: Smoked Salmon with Chives, Corn Salad, and a Duck Magret with Mango Dressing. The salmon was superior in term of quality, and the Duck Magret excellent (we just set the little bit too exotic mango dressing apart, and rather used the fragrant olive oil in a small bottle to season the salad presented as a side dish). The freshly baked breads are surely the best that we ever tasted in an airplane. We are inflexible with the quality of bread, and can ensure that the one served aboard RJ planes (at least between CDG and AMM, but also AMM and BKK) could pair a Michelin star dinner in Paris or New York. We ordered one glass of Laroche Chablis. This white Burgundy wine came well chilled, and paired ideally our salmon and salad. We never drank Jordanian wine, and asked one small glass of Saint George Shiraz to pair our magret. A pure marvel to the palate, this traditional Shiraz organically grown and aged in French oak barrels develops powerful aromas of spices, violet and blackberries. It was warmly recommended by the two stewardesses who took great care of us, and gave us so many tips about their country that we now dream to visit it for our future reviews... and for our personal pleasure.
Our main course came on a trolley. So stylish! Remember that we are aboard a A320, on a medium-haul flight. We could order from two dishes. Goat Cheese Ravioli with Ricotta Sauce, or Pan-Fried Shrimps with Coconut & Tomato Sauce. We got the second option, which resulted in a mouth watering generous portion of crunchy prawns, with Lyonnaises Potatoes and Basmati Rice as a side dish. That was a good choice, paired with a glass of Pouilly Fumé Pascal Jolivet: a pale and bright dry, yet fruity Sauvignon from the Loire Vallée.
The good selection of cheese, presented on the trolley again, was a pretext to enjoy more crispy bread and to have a last glass of wine which we already knew very well: Réserve Mouton Cadet Saint Emilion. Produced by Baron Philippe de Rothschild's world famous vineyards, this is one of the most commercialized Saint Emilion in the world. Well balance association of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it develops the subtle savours of blackberry, jammy fruit and violet, with a spicy well-rounded finish.
A last trolley ride for presenting the desserts, tea/coffee and digestive. We can say that, from our long flying experience, we received that day the largest selection of pastries ever served in the air. Everything was so tempting. The Coffee Dort was strong in coffee, indeed, and amazingly fresh. It reminded us of those yummy cakes that we enjoyed so much a couple of decades ago at Ladurée or Carette “salon-de-thé” in Paris. Old-style, and this is what any amateur of authentic pastry is looking for. Tasting like a “Proust Madeleine”... The nice looking sherbets were as tasty as refreshing: we paired the excellent strawberry sherbet with one glass of Cointreau on the rocks... Just delicious... F&B on flights leaving Amman is provided by Dnata Catering Services; Servair caters CDG – AMM.
After coffee we had all time for testing the comfortable, good quality headphones. Of course we couldn't compare the quite small, little bit outdated removable LCD / AVOD screen aboard a320 with the panoramic screen in the magic RJ B787 Dreamliner which flew us to Bangkok. But it was more than OK for this short route. There was a collection of movies, television shows, audio and games... which we didn't use, as the ambiance was so convivial in the cabin that we spent the rest of the time standing in the aisle, talking with our travel companions. That was indeed a very special flight, reflecting what we would like to say to conclude this review: a small company compared with Air France KLM, American Airlines or Lufthansa, we would call Royal Jordanian a “boutique airline”. It has giant competitors in the Middle-East area, like Etihad, Qatar, or the excellent Emirates, and seems to use its smaller size to capture a certain category of passengers looking for more authentic smiles, anticipating service, and the human, gastronomic and cultural atmosphere of the country represented by the airline. Emirates is almost perfect; but the excellent staff is so multi-cultural that you feel like everywhere except in UAE when you fly with them. On the contrary, one step into a RJ aircraft and you already feel like in Jordan, enjoying the best of this hospitable country. This is surely the reason that it was difficult to say bye-bye to the sublime stewardesses and to the excellent A320 director-fleet-captain Emad which softly landed us at Queen Alia International Airport right on time.
The best was yet to come, with our discovery of the new International terminal with its ritzy Crown Lounge, and with our experience in the most precious jewel on the Royal Jordanian crown: the B787 Dreamliner from AMM to BKK.
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