Hello Jordan: Ryanair’s Interesting Middle East Expansion Plans

I’m off to Jordan later this year, and while I was looking at Amman’s Queen Alia Airport Wikipedia page to determine how to get out of there, I came across something interesting that I was unaware of.

While it is already flying a sole route from nearby Paphos, Cyprus, on October 29, 2018, Ryanair will commence flights from a further nine European airports to Amman, Jordan.

Petra, Jordan

The European destinations include:

  • Bergamo
  • Brussels
  • Bologna
  • Bucharest
  • Budapest
  • Kraków
  • Paphos
  • Prague
  • Vilnius
  • Warsaw–Modlin

It will also be launching flights from four European airports — Athens, Cologne/Bonn, Rome Campiano and Sofia — to the Jordanian city of Aqaba.

I note that Ryanair does already fly to Israel, but I believe that is their only other destination in the Middle East.

As you might imagine, Ryanair’s entry dramatically lowers prices.

There are several things I find really interesting about this:

  1. Ryanair has chosen 10 destinations that flag carrier Royal Jordanian does not operate to, so there is definitely a market for passengers who want a direct flight for a good price but are willing to sacrifice comfort to get there.
  2. They are not testing the market by launching one route at a time like many airlines would do with a new destination. They are launching nine new routes in two days (albeit with infrequent schedules).
  3. Ryanair will flood the market with cheap seats, which will be fantastic for Jordanian tourism, but I can’t imagine Royal Jordanian is very happy about this ultra low-cost competition. Italy welcomed Ryanair with open arms, and look what that has done for Alitalia.
  4. From my own planning, I know that Jordan is a fairly affordable travel destination (when compared with places like Israel or Dubai), so this seems like a good fit for a Ryanair destination in the Middle East.
  5. Ryanair is ruthless in negotiating ridiculously low landing and airport fees, which is why they choose seemingly random airports to operate to, so I imagine both Amman Airport and the Jordanian Government would be giving significant incentives to Ryanair for this expansion. The Jordanian Government owns 36% of Royal Jordanian so it would be fascinating to understand how they believe the two airlines can co-exist. Perhaps Ryanair has agreed not to operate any of the same routes as Royal Jordanian?
  6. Ryanair and other European carriers have made their fortunes transporting passengers on short flights around Europe. Brussels to Amman is a 4.5 hours flight. I understand the economics of Ryanair’s business model reduces the longer the flights are (which is why it doesn’t operate many flights this long). I expect they are loss-leading as they launch, which is not uncommon for airlines to do as they build a new route, but I can’t imagine there is any profit in a 4.5 hour flight for €44.
  7. If this experiment works, I imagine Ryanair has a list of Middle East destinations it would consider next. Muscat, Oman?

Bottom line

Perhaps the Jordanian Government believes there is so much potential for tourism in Jordan to grow that they believe both carriers can co-exist. I’ll be watching with interest to see what happens when and if they compete on the same routes, especially from London, which is Ryanair’s biggest hub.

Yes, both airlines have different products and business models and (currently) target different customers. And I don’t tend to actively seek out Ryanair flights over three hours because they’re not exactly comfortable. But Ryanair can offer such absurdly cheap prices that they will have no trouble taking passengers from Royal Jordanian.

Would you fly Ryanair to Jordan if the price was right?

Comments

  1. I see you chose to ignore the BBC’s report about Qatar airways trafficking money to terrorist groups Mr. not-political-but-airline-related-writer.

  2. I would not. I enjoy flying, I like some culture on the flight therefore I wouldn’t fly them on a flight over 2 hours. If I want to go to Amman, I will wait for good price on legacy carrier rather than supporting FR.

  3. I think Ryanair can actually murder all EU airlines if they introduced a proper lie-flat J like BE diamond with two rows of seating. Having a ribbed 28″ pitch in economy with no service at the same time. What do others at OMAAT think of this idea?

  4. @ Varun Susarla – given most Ryanair flights are less than three hours in length I don’t think Ryanair will be introducing any lie flat seating. I would much rather pay for a better soft product on a flight that short than a lie flat seat.
    Ryanair operate very few overnight red-eye flights where this hard product would be most advantageous.

  5. @ Nico – thats a good point. I also like some culture when flying somewhere exotic and would much rather fly Royal Jordanian than Ryanair into Jordan. But if RYanair is a quarter of the price its hard to justify the additional cost…

  6. James –
    We’ve been in and out of AMM multiple times in the last few years (my wife and her family are Palestinian) what, if anything do you need help with as referred to in your post?

  7. @James – So you would prefer a recliner with 49″ pitch (EY,TK,RJ) along with an elaborate soft product to a BE diamond seat. I get where you are coming from.

  8. @ Varun Susarla – given 95% of Ryanairs flights are day flights of less than 3 hours length, then yes I would prefer an elaborate soft product to an elaborate hard product.

  9. If I purchase the cheapest Ryanair ticket, do I have to pay for a carry-on? Or is it checked for free?

    I don’t mind either way, just confused on the baggage rules.

    Thanks.

  10. @Ever, there are two options, one if to pay €6 (Called priority boarding & 2 bags) and be allowed to bringing two bags on – one wheelie type suitcase and a smaller bag such as handbag or laptop bag.

    The other option is pay nothing, the bag is tagged at the gate and you collect it at the baggage belt in arrivals hall at the destination.

  11. I’m flying to Amman myself in October. It’s not a particularly cheap country to visit, so I suspect that those wishing to do so would appreciate the savings with Ryanair.

  12. I’m flying to Amman myself in October. It’s not a particularly cheap country to visit, so I suspect that those wishing to do so would appreciate the savings with Ryanair.

  13. This is great news, Jordan has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for ages and this makes it far cheaper compared to BA and RJ’s fares on the direct flights from London which are often in excess of £500 in economy. Would likely do it in combination with a short city break in one of the eastern Europe destinations and use avios to get back to London on BA/RJ as the taxes are more reasonable in that direction

  14. @James great article! Really like what you are bringing to OMAAT!

    Very interesting how Ryanair is positioning itself in Jordan and it will be interesting to see how Royal Jordanian responds.

    In terms of Ryanair’s next foray into a new market in the region, although I think Muscat, Oman is a solid choice since it has huge tourist potential, safe and compared to the other Gulf countries, Oman Air won’t be nearly as fierce to compete with let’s say Dubai/EK, Doha/QR or even with a struggling Abu Dhabi/EY on their home-turfs.

    As many have pointed out, the distance in terms of time from some of the locations to AMM is longer than most Ryanair flights and may be opposed to doing 3-4 hours on a Ryanair flight. Flying to Muscat (or anywhere in the Gulf) will add at least another 2 hours to flight times. Is there a market for Ryanair flights being around 6 hours?

    If Ryanair wants to make a quicker jaunt into the region, they might be better off looking to expand next into either Egypt or Tunisia (which they currently don’t service) and those flight times from central and even western Europe are not that long. However, I really don’t know if due to security, there will be a huge demand for those locations currently.

    What do you think?

  15. @ Micah – while Egypt and Tunisia would be logical destinations for an ultra low cost carrier, given both their geography and affordability, I think the safety concerns for foreign tourists in both countries will keep both Ryanair away.

  16. Beirut could be another destination for Ryanair. It would probably serve the diaspora more than tourists, but there is a potential market there too.

  17. Excellent piece. This is meaningful info to make travel choices. For me a lot more interesting than hyping the next CC sign up bonus.

  18. @Aaron – the diaspora lives in South America for the most part and is quite affluent.

  19. “I expect they are loss-leading as they launch, which is not uncommon for airlines to do as they build a new route, but I can’t imagine there is any profit in a 4.5 hour flight for €44.”

    Well yes, but the same applies to seats on every single flight Ryanair operates. Its not just a special launch offer, they’ve always offered seats below cost on all their flights during promotions (surely you knew that!).

  20. Interesting development. Could these be seasonal routes i.e. only in winter? As you may know, Ryanair regularly idles 10-20 percent of their fleet in the winter months, as they cannot find enough routes in winter to profitably operate all planes.

  21. @Varun Susarla

    1) Not all of them are quite affluent and

    2) Enough of them live and work in Europe (maybe half a million all told between Lebanese citizens and European naturalized citizens) to at least have some potential for LCC carriers…

    Germania has 5 flights to Beirut, 4 from Germany and one from Sweden.

  22. @Aaron – Makes sense for the EU resident Lebanese, but there are more Lebanese in LATAM then there are in Lebanon itself! And they constitute the elite!

  23. I see no reason for Amman – Vilnius to exist! who would fly this route? for which purpose?!

  24. They operate already for a while from AMM to LCA. In the beginning they were selling tickets for 2€ (!) on that route.
    Surprising when you know that only the AMM departure taxes are already around 60€.
    Probably they get some huge incentives from the government.

  25. I don’t understand why flying Ryanair for 4.5 hours is any different than flying say BA euro economy once you’re on the plane?

    LHR-LCA is around the same distance as BRU-AMM and with BA you’d have to buy or bring on board food and drinks. BA’s newest planes feature the same seats as easyJet from row 13 backwards. If anything longer flights are better for Ryanair as you’re more likely to pay for extras on these longer flights than on 1 hour hops around Europe

  26. Haha for a dorm talent show at my university I did a “cheap flights” act where I booked their PFO-AMM flight for $2.45. The reactions I got were priceless! It’ll be interesting to see how this route holds up, and I’m really curious to see if Wizz Air follows. Surely if they can support flights like BUD-TSE and SOF-DWC they can attract quite a market for Jordan. Time will only tell!

  27. @Lumma – LHR-AMM is operated by a special a320 with flatbeds in J and WT in the back.

  28. Yes, of course I would fly them, RJ is a bargain for everywhere they fly EXCEPT Jordan ( as is the case for home ports for most carriers).
    I hope you are including Petra on your trip; it would be a big mistake to miss it. Breathtaking place.
    In a previous life, I used to drive from Damascus to Amman ( or mostly be driven), sadly no longer possible and maybe decades before it will be again.

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