Jordanian skies welcome low-cost airlines

Ryanair will be the first low-cost airline to enter the Jordanian market.
Sunday 18/02/2018
New routes. A Boeing 737 of Irish low-cost Ryanair airline takes off from the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France.                           (AFP)
New routes. A Boeing 737 of Irish low-cost Ryanair airline takes off from the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France. (AFP)

AMMAN - Jordanian skies are welcoming low-cost airlines, a move gaining support of travel agents and travellers for expanding routes, better value and significant development for the country’s tourism industry.

The Jordanian government signed an open skies agreement with the European Union in 2010 to allow European and Jordanian airlines to operate freely across Jordan and EU countries and the Irish company Ryanair will be the first low-cost airline to enter the Jordanian market.

However, Ryanair’s entry into the market could be a blow to other airlines operating in Jordan.

The Irish low-cost airline in cooperation with the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and the Jordan Tourism Board will add 14 routes to the kingdom this year with the first starting in March to Paphos, Cyprus.

“Opening new routes — or new countries — is dependent on consumer demand, available aircraft capacity, a viable airport deal and required operational needs being met,” said Nikolas Lardis, Ryanair sales and marketing manager for the Eastern Mediterranean.

“Ryanair’s entry into the Jordanian market means that new business and leisure travellers from 11 European countries now have access to one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world on Ryanair’s world-renowned low fares.

“We’re also pleased that Jordanians will have access to low-cost travel, which is already enjoyed by residents and visitors of the 33 other countries Ryanair already serves,” he added.

National Geographic Traveler magazine’s 2018 list of the 21 must-see destinations included the Jordan Trail.

“We continually look at new markets as we grow to 200 million customers per year by 2024,” Landis said. “We already operate a number of routes from Eilat and Tel Aviv in Israel and are pleased to continue our expansion in the Middle East by commencing operations in Jordan.”

The move was supported by Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities officials.

“Paphos will be followed by nine new routes to Queen Alia airport in Amman and four others to Aqaba’s King Hussein International Airport starting in the winter of 2018,” said Ansam Malkawi, a consultant at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. “We are really excited of this development and we hope that this year will be an excellent year for Jordan’s tourism sector.”

“In addition to Paphos, Bologna, Krakow, Bucharest, Prague, Brussels, Vilnius, Milan, Budapest and Warsaw” will be added, he said, with the routes between Athens, Rome, Cologne and Sofia to operate from Aqaba. “Travellers for religious, leisure and business reasons will be targeted through several marketing campaigns and we expect this summer to be very busy,” Malkawi added.

A Central Bank of Jordan report stated that revenues increased 12.5% in 2017 to $4.6 billion, compared to $4.1 billion in 2016 and there was an 8.7% rise in the total number of tourists over the previous year.

Airport International Group, the company responsible for the operation of Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, said it welcomed 576,466 passengers in December, a 7% year-on-year increase in comparison to the same period in 2016.

“Aqaba will receive flights beginning in October and will also operate for the winter period in which the weather is fair,” Malkawi stated.

“This significant development in Jordan’s tourism industry will offer travellers a greater choice and value for money,” Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Lina Annab said at a news conference. “Enhancing air connectivity is one of the key areas Jordan is focusing on, given its effect on unlocking economic growth through attracting business investment as well as spurring tourism.”

“Ryanair’s decision to fly to Jordan sends a loud-and-clear message about the diversity and the untapped potential of Jordan’s tourism product. It also shows confidence in the tourism industry, which has witnessed double-digit growth in the past year,” she added.

Ryanair said last year it became the first European airline to have carried more than 1 billion customers.

Ryanair Chief Commercial Officer David O’Brien said after initiating the route from Amman to Paphos, the airline would add ten beginning in October as part of its winter 2018 schedule.

“Flights to Aqaba will commence in October with four routes, which will deliver almost 500,000 Ryanair customers [yearly] at Amman and Aqaba airports,” he said.

He said to mark establishing the Amman-Paphos route, seats for travel in April and May would cost 19.99 euros ($24.72).

Murad Ghsoun, owner of a travel agency in Amman, said: “We are depending on this season to be a busy one as last year people did not travel a lot because of priorities and the increase in prices and taxes as families who have four or five members declined from travelling due to the prices so we are hoping that the presence of an affordable airline could do the change we seek,” he added.

Despite Ghsoun’s comment about people staying home in 2017, Queen Alia International Airport set a record for annual passenger traffic, with 7,914,704 passengers, a 6.8% increase over 2016, the Airport International Group said.

Hassan Abdul Rahman, a frequent traveller to Europe, said it was about time more options were available in Jordan.

“For someone who travels a lot, there is a need to have a cost-effective airline and, with what we saw and witnessed recently in the increase in the ticket prices, it is about time to have a really affordable option. I think other airlines will be forced to lower their prices,” he said.

Other airlines have dropping prices.  EgyptAir has begun a promotion offering up to 30% discount on flights to Europe, North America and the Far East for tickets purchased before February 25.