The chief executive officer of Royal Jordanian Airlines, Hussein H. Dabbas, recently met with members of the media from Canada and the United States at the airline’s corporate office in Amman. The purpose of the meeting was for the airline CEO to inform the 19-person group about Royal Jordanian’s latest developments and future plans. The group was comprised of travel writers and journalists who were in Jordan as part of a press trip organized by the Washington, DC, team of the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB).
As expected, the CEO of Jordan’s flag carrier discussed what is to be expected from the airline in the coming months. Among the issues he discussed had to do with the airline’s plan to distribute its fleet based on specific markets. “Our North America routes will utilize Boeing aircraft, while our European routes will use Airbus,” he said, “We also have Embraer aircraft and those are likely to be use for our domestic routes.”
This reporter, however, raised the issue on how the airline’s preparedness in the event of a worst-case scenario. It isn’t farfetched to claim that the Middle East region is currently beleaguered as a consequence of the many conflicts that are sweeping the entire region. The question Mr. Abbas was asked is: What is Royal Jordanian’s contingency plan for a worst-case scenario?
In response, Mr. Abbas said: “We always have a plan for a worst-case scenario. If you look at our history, look at the last few years, something pops up around the world, and we end up paying a big price for it, whether [it be] the war in Lebanon, or the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, now in Egypt, Tripoli, Yemen, and Iraq. We’ve always had problems.”
To be specific, he cited two instances wherein Royal Jordanian Airlines was forced to deal with crisis. He said: “If I recall, the First Gulf War, when the Allied Forces wanted to kick Iraq out of Kuwait, we basically became a no-fly zone. We couldn’t keep our planes in Jordan. The insurance said, ‘Guys, get them out.’ So, we placed our fleet in Vienna, Austria. We were connecting Jordan via Austria to anywhere else. We were only allowed one airplane at a time in the space of Jordan, so we were flying an airline to Jordan via Vienna, and it was only supposed to stay here only for two hours. We would put everybody on that plane; send it back to Vienna for them to go to Cairo or anywhere else. It was a bit of a strange issue.”
He added: “In the Second Gulf War, we were planning as well to do some kind of evacuation to Athens, Tunisia, and so on. Luckily, we were not part of the no-fly zone [list], so at least operations going westward were fine. Going east was subject to clearances of flying to certain areas – Saudi and so on in the Gulf area.”
Mr. Dabbas assured that the airline is ready to deal with in the event that a crisis situation occurs. He said: “We have a lot of contingency plans – whether it be the volcano in Iceland, the snowstorms in the UK, sandstorms in Kuwait, we always have an issue. We have plans, so we keep them in the doors until something pops up, then we activate them.”
In line with Royal Jordanian’s readiness, Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism has taken on a pro-active role in showcasing the country as a safe destination, even in times of crisis. It has implemented programs, such as the recent press trip that this reporter participated in, to reinforce the reputation that the Hashemite kingdom has consistently held — that it is a safe destination for tourists. Those with plans to visit should not be deterred by what is going on in its surrounding countries.
It is worth mentioning that the demonstrations that have been taking place in Amman after the Friday prayers have been going on in the past few weeks. Recent media coverage has portrayed the situation as something that has only happened in the past two consecutive Fridays. Officials from the Jordan Tourism Board contend that the situation is getting a “zoom in” treatment. JTB officials claim that the media has been inaccurate in covering these demonstrations.
Mr. Addas’ statement along with the fact that Jordan’s tourism authorities are not just sitting idly at their desks should be a manifestation of Jordan’s resilience to keep travel and tourism alive regardless of the current situation.
Travel and tourism may contribute only 14 percent to the nations’ GDP, but it remains an industry that receives strong support from both the public and private sectors, as shown by the efforts of Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Royal Jordanian Airlines. Historically, Jordan is destination where there isn’t a single case of tourists being harmed because of political conflicts. It would be a shame if tourists defer their travel plans to visit Jordan based on current available data.