AMMAN — National air carrier Royal Jordanian (RJ) sealed a landmark agreement on Monday to join one of the world's leading global airline alliances.
The agreement, signed with oneworld, in the presence of His Majesty King Abdullah yesterday, marked the beginning of what RJ considers to be one of the most significant alliances yet in its history.
Oneworld brings together some of the leading airlines in the industry such as American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, LAN Chile, Finnair and Aer Lingus and their 12 affiliates.
RJ, which was invited by oneworld to join its alliance, will be the first carrier from the Levant, Middle East and Gulf region to be elected on board any of the global airline groupings.
RJ President and CEO Samer Majali and officials from the alliance described the step as a significant one for the country's national carrier and its strategic vision.
"We are delighted that our recent performance and strategic vision make us an attractive partner for the world's best alliance," Majali told the press yesterday.
Majali, who has led RJ under a stringent cleanup process and management of the national carrier, said the move is in line with the airline's ongoing efforts and new strategic plans to build and expand on greater networks in the region.
Today, alliances are a major force in the international airline industry. Some 80 per cent of world scheduled international capacity now rests within the three big alliances.
Together, oneworld's members operate more than 8,000 departures a day to 600 destinations in 135 territories.
Its members' 2,000 aircraft carried more than 230 million passengers in 2004 — equivalent to around one in 30 of the world population.
The alliance also helped its member airlines earn almost 60 billion in revenues, with oneworld activities generating one in every 30 earned by its member airlines from passenger services.
Such alliances also help provide airline customers with numerous services and benefits.
This includes, for example, a broader route network, opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles and points across the alliance network and access to more airport lounges.
In addition, oneworld is currently the first alliance to enable customers to travel across their combined networks with electronic tickets, which its competitors do not yet offer.
At present, RJ has satisfied oneworld's key pre-joining audits, assuring the group that it can deliver the alliance's services, benefits and processes, and also match its demanding quality and safety standards.
However, there is still much to do before the national carrier can become a full-fledged member of oneworld by the turn of 2006/2007.
According to Majali, RJ will have to connect its IT systems with that of its partners and provide staff training to deliver oneworld products, customer benefits and support over the coming 18 months.
Majali said the airline was doing its utmost to take advantage of both the regional liberalisation of air transport and King Abdullah's vision for a Jordan as a business and investment hub.
He said the entry into the alliance, although optional, was crucial if Jordan was to keep pace with the rapid developments of the global airline industry.
Majali acknowledged Iberia and British Airways as two of the world's leading airlines, which RJ would do well to learn from.
RJ currently flies to destinations across the Levant, the Middle East and the Gulf as well as London, Madrid, Barcelona, New York JFK, Chicago O'Hare and Bangkok.
It will add Iraq and Yemen to the oneworld map and 10 destinations, including Al Arish and Alexandria in Egypt, Al Ain in UAE, Dammam and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Aqaba in Jordan, as well as Baghdad, Basra and Erbil in Iraq. This will extend the alliance's network to 135 territories and 609 destinations
Representing oneworld and its existing members yesterday at the press conference was Fernando Conte, chairman and CEO of Iberia and current chairman of the oneworld governing board.
Conte said Royal Jordanian was the first airline accepted to join oneworld in more than five years.
He said the alliance members, who are very selective in their choices, had also been looking into expanding the network in the Middle East and cited RJ as a quality candidate to recruit for that end. According to them, RJ's distinguished performance and track record served the airline well.
"Oneworld's focus over [the past five years] has been on helping our member airlines fly through the terrible turbulence our industry has had to face," said Conte.
"Now we are entering a new period of expansion with [RJ] as the first to join our group," he added.
"We believe RJ will add considerable value to oneworld and we believe oneworld will add considerable value not only to RJ but to Amman as an aviation hub in this region with all the benefits that this means for Jordan," said Conte.
Also present at the press conference yesterday were British Airways Chairman Martin Broughton, who is also acting as a sponsor for RJ's entry into the alliance, and oneworld's managing partner, John McCulloch.