Saturday, February 9, 2008

An Open Letter to Royal Jordanian Airlines

Recently and while on a Royal Jordanian (RJ) flight to Amman, I witnessed a series of appalling behaviors and observations that grabbed my attention in an unusual way. In fact, and in order to catch every detail possible, I started jotting down notes on a news article that I had printed out to read while on board.

It started with boarding the plane; every crew member was busy doing something except greeting the passengers. I headed to my seat and it happened to be on the first row. This allowed me full view of the interaction between the cabin and the ground crews, in addition to the usual interaction with the cockpit.

Shortly before the flight was ready for take off, a ground crew member whisked in a “package” (big box) with the cabin chief’s consent. This was all done so swiftly, which prompted one of the stewardesses to tease the cabin chief about the story behind this "package". He whispered something in her ear to which she answered “is it for the husband or the wife?” (She did actually say the names and they are some big timers in Jordan). Once the “package” was secured on board, the cabin chief then informed the captain of the package as a matter of fact. The captain seemed puzzled, annoyed and just in plain disdain. His authority as captain was challenged, undermined, and surely paralyzed given that the recipient is “so and so”. Nevertheless, and maybe in a desperate attempt to reclaim his authority the captain did inquire on whether the package went through the proper security checks. He was assured by the cabin chief that it did.

Once the flight took off, a large noise was heard, and both crew members looked at each other “ah, this is the garbage bin in the toilet”. The aircraft we were on is one of the newer ones in the fleet of Royal Jordanian. It was sad to see that it already felt old, worn out, badly kept, and worst of all dirty.

The flight I was on was luckily a short one. Throughout the flight the same stewardess and the cabin chief were seated right in front of me in seats designated for crew members. I had to endure listening to counseling by the cabin chief to the young stewardess on a love affair that she is having with a married man. The details were kind of gruesome (nothing graphic though), and they were bordering on the vulgar. In fact the cabin chief used foul language twice, which was at least heard by this passenger.

My overall observations were:

* Both male and female crew members did not look well groomed. Their hair seemed messy and oily. Their shoes were not polished. Their uniform was in bad need of laundry. The overall image of the crew was tired and worn out. In addition, some of the crew members had their uniform so tight, it was about to burst. I am not suggesting drastic measures similar to those of Singapore Airlines, but a minimum clean-cut presentable look could set a healthy image for RJ.
* The crew was busy socializing among each other instead of catering to the needs of the passengers.
* The aircraft was not properly cleaned. In fact, before going into the toilet, the cabin chief asked me to wait in order for him to fix the fallen garbage bin. He did fix it while leaving a bunch of toilet paper on the floor!!!!
* RJ still allows certain individuals, regardless of how prominent they are, to act as if they own the company and to falsely assume a sense of entitlement towards it. Believe me as long as RJ falls hostage to this sort of conduct, RJ will go no where. It is a matter of ethics and I leave it at that.

My message to Royal Jordanian:

You got us all extremely excited when the airline joined the One World Alliance. We even willingly accepted on many occasions to pay a premium on flying the airline believing that you guys are seriously working on pulling your act together. What I saw recently was typical of an airline that lacks the minimum standards of hospitality and professionalism. What I saw recently was reminiscent of the bad old days.

Upgrading the hardware (the fleet) without focusing on the software (the people) is tantamount to building a nice hotel with lousy service…it does not work!!!! The two go hand in hand.

The hot shot that had a package transported and delivered via your esteemed company could have easily employed and benefited ARAMEX (a national courier company) to make the delivery. This is but a small example of blatant abuse of power and authority, and of squandering of taxpayers' money under the pretext of falsely assumed privilage. I would not be surprised if the the people who are abusing tax payers' money are the very people who are not paying taxes at all.

Finally, and in the bigger and more important picture, RJ is the first encounter visitors have when they embark on their journey to visit Jordan. The flight experience is key in setting the tone on what is to be expected. It is RJ's duty and our best chance to reflect a civilized, clean, hospitable, and professional face to our great country Jordan.


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