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History of American Trans Air, Lauda Air and Royal Jordanian Airlines

History of American Trans Air, Lauda Air and Royal Jordanian Airlines

The History of American Trans Air

Indianapolis-based American Trans Air, once an emerging carrier, continually searched for an identity.

Established in 1973 as an aircraft provider for the Ambassadair Travel Club, it inaugurated service with a single Boeing 720 dubbed “Miss Indy,” doubling its fleet five years later with a second, “Spirit of Indiana.” But its March 1981 issuance of common-carrier certification enabled it to operate in its own right.

Retaining its Indianapolis roots, it acquired ever larger aircraft, including eight 707s; its first widebody, a former Laker Airways DC-10-10 registered N183AT in 1983; and an ex-Northwest Orient DC-10-40, itself bearing registration N184AT. The quad-engine 707s were eventually replaced by more fuel efficient 727-100 tri-jets.

Annual passenger totals climbed: 96,426 in 1981, 269,086 in 1982, and 618,532 in 1983.

Relying upon Northwest for additional DC-10 acquisitions, but forced to substitute the comparable TriStar when it elected to retain its aircraft, American Trans Air purchased its first in 1985, ultimately operating 15 L-1011-1s, one -100, and four -500s.

It assumed a new operational profile when it inaugurated limited scheduled service on the JFK-Belfast-Riga (Latvia), Indianapolis-Fort Myers, Indianapolis-Las Vegas, and San Francisco-Kahului (Maui)-Honolulu routes, billing itself both as “American’s vacation airline” and “The nation’s largest charter airline.”

“We create the comfort. You create the excitement,” it advertised. “At American Trans Air, we know the only excitement you want on a vacation is the excitement you create. That’s why you can count on American Trans Air’s courteous, professional staff, top flight aircraft, consumer conscious prices, and all the little extras that have become characteristic of our growing company.”

Growing it was. Seeking to avoid scheduled airline competition, it had become the United States’ largest charter operator, attributing up to 90 percent of its revenue to both the civil and military divisions of this sector, with the remainder from scheduled operations, wet leasing, third party pilot training, and contract maintenance.

Operating a 23-strong fleet by 1992-including seven 727-100s, 12 L-1011-1s, and four 757-200s-it was profitable for 18 of its 19-year history, posting a $2 million loss the previous year for the first time because of the recession and the travel trepidation created by the Gulf War. It transported 2.4 million passengers that year.

It was that very Gulf War, however, which served as the cornerstone of its military operations, since its aircraft counted as part of the Civil Air Patrol fleet. Carrying 108,000 troops on 494 missions in support of Operation Desert Storm, it was also instrumental in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and provided 727-100 shuttle flights between Nellis Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Stretched -200s replaced the -100s in 1993.

American Trans Air once again adopted a new image when it devoted a significant portion of its aircraft resources to scheduled operations from a Chicago-Midway hub, in addition to continuing its military and government contract flights.

American Trans Air

To facilitate its intended growth and modernize its fleet, it ordered 39 737-800s and 12 757-200s in 2000, taking delivery of the first of the former (N301TZ) in June of the following year and the first of the latter (N550TZ) two months later, introducing a livery change in the process to emphasize its new scheduled-airline, business-oriented route system, now branded “ATA Airlines.”

Equally seeking feed from small and secondary cities with more suitable turboprop regional equipment, it purchased existing Chicago Express for $1.9 million in 1999 and operated it as a separate “ATA Connection” subsidiary.

Its latest, elevated-image strategy, however, proved unprofitable, forcing it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection five years later, on October 26, 2004. The best method of keeping it alive, it decided, was to employ its assets for the benefit of a healthy carrier, which, in this case, was deregulation-synonymous Southwest Airlines.

Transferring six of its Midway Airport gates and 27 percent of its nonvoting stock to Southwest in exchange for a life-injecting cash infusion and continued operation under a code share agreement in December of 2004, ATA reduced its number of Indianapolis-served destinations to three and redeployed aircraft to Chicago, now assuming a business airline profile by flying to cities that Southwest did not, including New York-La Guardia, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Francisco.

Midway-bypassing services also enabled it to link Southwest focus cities, such as Orlando, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, with other voids in its route system, Denver and Honolulu among them.

The strategy resulted in a 20-percent revenue increase for Southwest, but did not necessarily suture ATA’s financial bleed.

To further reduce costs, it significantly pruned its fleet, selling 20 737-800s and eight 757-300s and only marginally plugging its capacity gap with the two-year lease, between November of 2005 and November of 2007, of three former United Airlines 737-300s. Even the lease rates, in the event, proved too high.

Coincident service reductions, not surprisingly, were extensive, as the lights dimmed on numerous destinations over a short interval: Boston, Newark, and Minneapolis in October of 2005, Indianapolis and Denver in November, and Orlando, Fort Myers, and San Francisco the following April, leaving little more than the skeleton of its once fully fleshed body.

Indeed, 18 daily departures were dispatched form a single gate at Midway Airport and only 52 were offered system wide. A previous court approval had enabled it to sell its Ambassadair Travel Club division to Grueninger Cruises and Tours.

Although a $100 million financial package form the MatlinPatterson investment firm and pre-bankruptcy creditors enabled the now-privatized carrier to briefly emerge from bankruptcy and establish service to New York-La Guardia, Houston-Hobby, Ontario, Oakland, and Hilo (Hawaii), rising fuel prices, the rapid resignation of a shortly-serving CEO, the poorly executed replacement plan of its L-1011s with DC-10s, and the loss of a major military contract caused it to spiral back into bankruptcy, leaving Flight 4586 from Honolulu to Phoenix to mark its last landing at 0846 on August 2, 2008.

The History of Lauda Air

Lauda Air

Lauda Air, the second carrier after Austrian Airlines itself to establish a presence in Vienna, had a history of both competition and cooperation with it.

Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda, the son of a paper factory owner, who forged a very different path than his father when he won the first of three Formula One world racing championships at 26-years-old, capitalized on his notoriety and invested his wealth in an airline that bore his name, Lauda Air Luftfahrt AG.

Acquiring Alpair Vienna’s charter license for ATS 5 million in April of 1979, he commenced charter and air taxi service in cooperation with Austrian Airlines with two Fokker F.27 Friendships.

It quickly became apparent, however, that it could not coexist with incumbent Austrian in such a small home market, and the F.27s were consequently leased to Egyptair.

Entering a partnership with Greek financier Basile Varvaressos, owner of the ITAS travel agency, six years later, he leased two BAC-111-500s, a British twin-jet not unlike the SE.210 Caravelle and Douglas DC-9 in size, range, and design, from Tarom Romanian Airlines, increasing his fleet capacity to 208 seats in the process and operating them on charter and inclusive-tour (IT) services to Greece and other European destinations.

So high did demand become, however, that it soon exceeded capacity and a larger 737-200, this time acquired from Transavia Holland, replaced one of the BAC-111s. Still later, both types were superseded by two even higher-capacity 737-300s, which were operated on a steadily growing charter route network.

In May of 1986, Lauda Air applied to the Austrian Ministry of Transport for a license to operate scheduled international service for the first time. Approved in November of the following year, it signaled the end of Austrian Airlines’ long-held monopoly and a subsequently obtained, 235-passenger Boeing 767-300ER, featuring both business and economy class cabins, facilitated long-range, intercontinental flights.

The first, occurring on May 7, 1988, consisted of a single weekly frequency from Vienna to Hong Kong via Bangkok. It was later supplemented by a Vienna-Bangkok-Sydney sector.

Inextricably tied to the management of the airline that bore his name and frequently taking the left seat of his aircraft as the pilot that he was, he sought to differentiate it and hence attract passengers with quality, offering “Amadeus,” instead of simply “business,” class; catering his flights with cuisine from the highly esteemed DO & CO restaurant in downtown Vienna; featuring triangular shaped, porcelain plates during their in-flight service; and toting it all with the slogan, “Service is our success.” It was.

But his signature style was expressed in several other ways, including high expectations of his employees, uniforms that included the red baseball caps and blue jeans he himself wore, a mandatory flight attendant retirement age of 38, and aircraft named after movie stars, singers, and artists, such as Bob Marley, John Lennon, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Elvis Preseley, Janis Joplin, Greta Garbo, Gregory Peck, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway. One, reflecting his own passion, naturally bore the designation “Enzo Ferrari.”

Flamboyant, charismatic, and a racing hero who had also won 26 Grand Prix championships, he was perhaps the Austrian equivalent of Richard Branson.

Filling the need for lower-fare, long-haul, leisure-oriented travel, Lauda Air grew rapidly. In 1985, for instance, it carried 95,768 passengers and flew 2,522 flight hours with 67 employees, while in the first ten months of 1987, it carried 236,730 passengers and undertook 5,364 flight hours with 169 employees, a 147-percent passenger increase.

By 1990, its fleet consisted of five aircraft–three 146-passenger 737-300s and two 235-passenger 767-300ERs–all of which were operated on charter services to Europe, Africa, and the Middle and Far East. The scheduled routes remained those between Vienna, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Sydney.

Subsequently earning its license for European scheduled flights on August 23, 1990–a right thus far only held by flag carrier Austrian–Lauda Air inaugurated service between Vienna and London-Gatwick with five weekly 737-300 frequencies. But growth attracted more than passengers. It also attracted other airlines.

Because Lufthansa saw its growing presence in the Austrian market and its East European route access as potentially lucrative assets, it announced a marketing cooperation with Lauda Air in July of 1992, (which was initially envisioned as an offensive move against the aborted Austrian Airlines, KLM, SAS, and Swissair Alcazar Alliance), sealing the agreement the following January with a 26.5-percent capital increase, by means of its Condor charter carrier, shortly after which the two airlines inaugurated a quad-weekly 767-300ER service to Los Angeles. “Partner of Lufthansa,” advertising the arrangement, appeared on Lauda’s aircraft.

The fledgling Austrian carrier, no longer just a shadow of Austrian Airlines, was now aligned with a company far larger than itself and its initial, dual-aircraft fleet quickly quadrupled, now encompassing four narrow body 737s and four widebody 767s, operating between Munich, Miami, and Los Angeles with Condor equipment.

Painfully aware of competition from Austrian Airlines on scheduled inter-European routes, Lauda circumvented what would have resulted in low 737 load factors by ordering six 50-passenger Canadair CRJ-100 Regional Jets in October of 1993 to operate them.

Deployed to Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels, Geneva, Manchester, and Stockholm, they marked the start of the summer timetable, which became effective on March 27, 1994. Singapore, which replaced Bangkok in November of that year, served as its new “bridge” between Vienna and Sydney/Melbourne, and the weekly 767 service was doubled. By the fall it served 11 scheduled and 42 charter destinations.

On March 26 of the following year, Lauda Air established a second European hub, Milan-Malpensa, in cooperation with Lufthansa, which now held a 39.7-percent stake in the fledgling carrier, basing three of its six CRJ-100s there and operating them to Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin, Manchester, Paris, and Vienna. The Canadair Regional Jets, along with an increasing number of 737s, became the backbone of its European fleet.

Its statistics were hardly embarrassments. Indeed, it carried 1.5 million passengers in 1995, a significant percentage of whom provided business class yield, and employed 1,200 by the following year.

It soon become apparent, however, that pending European deregulation was not likely to tolerate dozen-aircraft airlines unless they served very small, specific market niches. Lauda Air had been unable to survive in the face of competition from Austrian Airlines once before. Because both operated medium- and long-range, twin-engine aircraft from bases in Vienna and offered considerable passenger service quality, cooperation between the two became inevitable.

Not surprisingly, it had already been partially consummated in June of 1996, when Austrian Airlines and Lauda Air operated single-aircraft, dual-code flights to Nice, Milan, and Rome with the Regional Jet for the first time.

On March 12, 1997, however, this was expanded, when the tri-carrier Austrian Airlines Group, comprised of Austrian Airlines itself, Lauda Air, and Tyrolean Airways, was formed, each operating within its own niche, based upon its experience, strengths, and aircraft types.

The former, for example, remained the flag carrier on scheduled medium- and long-range sectors, while Tyrolean served domestic and regional markets with turboprop and pure-jet airliners. Lauda Air, although initially retaining its scheduled Asian and Australian flights, now primarily focused on leisure-oriented charter destinations.

Nevertheless, on September 24 of that year, it took delivery of its second widebody aircraft type, the 777-200, which it inaugurated into service on the Vienna-Singapore-Sydney-Melbourne route the following month, replacing the venerable 767.

Two years later, all three Austrian Airlines Group carriers announced their intention of joining the Star Alliance as a collective whole and this became effective on March 26, 2000 at which time Niki Lauda relinquished his role as chief executive officer.

As the lower-cost arm within the three-airline group, Lauda provided medium- and long-range scheduled and charter service on leisure-oriented routes with a four-type, 22-aircraft fleet, maintaining its own identity.

But in 2004, the first steps toward integration with the Austrian Airlines brand occurred with the ratification of a joint Austrian-Lauda Air cockpit crew contract, and aircraft OE-LAE become the first of four 767-300s to be repainted in Austrian Airlines livery, introducing a new interior color scheme and a 24-seat business and 230-seat economy class configuration. Lauda Air itself reverted to a single-class, high-density charter carrier within the group, operating a narrow body fleet of Boeing 737s and Airbus A-320s.

Throughout its history, it had operated five basic pure-jet aircraft types, including 12 CRJ-100s, which were ultimately operated by or sold to Austrian Arrows, Tyrolean Airways, Lufthansa CityLine, and Air Littoral.

It also flew almost all versions of the Boeing 737, inclusive of the single 737-200 leased from Transavia Holland at the beginning of its climb, three 737-300s, three 737-400s, two 737-600s, two 737-700s, and seven 737-800s, often operating certain frequencies to destinations such as London-Heathrow alongside Austrian Airlines’ A-320-200s or A-321-100/200s at other times. It also flew two of the A-320s itself.

Of its exclusively Boeing widebody aircraft, it operated up to 11 767-300ERs at one time or another, which bore registrations OE-LAE, -LAS, -LAT, -LAU, -LAV, -LAW, -LAX, -LAY, and -LAZ. Two also sported French registrations. Aircraft OE-LAV was involved in the inexplicable thrust reverser deployment accident over Thailand in 1991, which resulted in the loss of all 213 passengers and ten crew members on board.

Three 777-200ERs were also operated, registered OE-LPA, -LPB, and -LPC. These, along with six 767s, were eventually flown by parent Austrian Airlines in its own colors and replaced its long-range Airbus A-330 and A-340 fleet.

Completely folded into Austrian, however, Lauda Air ceased to exist on July 1, 2012.

Although Niki Lauda himself seemed to have disappeared from the airline scene with his namesake carrier, his hiatus was brief. Forming another low-fare, short- to medium-range, inter-European airline, Fly Niki, he operated seven 112-seat Embraer E-190s, three 150-seat Airbus A-319s (in Air Berlin colors, of which it became a subsidiary), and nine 180-seat Airbus A-320-200s, carrying five million passengers that year and becoming Vienna’s second-largest based operator, once again providing competition and downward yield pressure for incumbent Austrian Airlines.

All things do, indeed, begin again.

The History of Royal Jordanian Airlines

Royal Jordanian Airlines

  1. Early Jordanian Carriers

When Jordan attained its independence in 1946, it sought to increase its identity by establishing its own airline, which took form on January 1 of that year as Arab Airways. Inaugurating service to Beirut, it spread its wings to Baghdad and Cairo by August of 1947, and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) became its principle investor.

Evolving into Arab Airways Jerusalem, Limited, six years later, it operated a fleet of twin-engine de Havilland Rapides from Jerusalem itself to Beirut and Cairo, but eventually added Aden, Amman, Baghdad, and Jeddah. It was not the region’s only carrier, however.

Air Jordan, established in 1950 by H. E. Ismail Bilbeisi Fasha, had itself commenced service from Amman with Airspeed Consuls, but a 1953 cash infusion by Trans Ocean Airlines, a non-scheduled carrier that operated charter and contract flights, enabled it to modernize its fleet with 21-passenger Douglas DC-3s. These ultimately connected Amman with Kabul via Kuwait and Kandahar.

Mirroring what had now become its competitor, Arab Airways Jerusalem equally acquired this aircraft type.

Vying for much of the same passenger base, but facing competition from other Middle Eastern airlines, they elected to merge and form Air Jordan of the Holy Land.

Initially operating two Convair CV-240s leased from Trans Ocean, it purchased a DC-4 in 1960, with which it was able to serve longer routes, such as those to Rome from its Amman hub. Despite the promise this larger, quad-engine aircraft offered, the fledgling airline was forced to cease operations on September 1 of the following year when its license was canceled.

Only a month elapsed before a successor was established-in this case, Jordan Airways, which was jointly owned by private interests (40 percent), the Jordanian government (25 percent), and Middle Eastern Airlines (also 25 percent), the latter of which provided it with three leased, turboprop-powered Vickers V.700 Viscounts and flight crews. Its reign was equally brief.

  1. Flag Carrier

Seeking to create the country’s definitive international carrier, King Hussein of Jordan, who himself was a pilot, asked Ali Ghandour, then vice president of Lebanon International Airways, to devise plans for a flag airline, intended, according to the king himself, to serve as “… a national carrier to be our ambassador of goodwill around the world and the bridge across which we exchange culture, civilization, trade, technology, friendship, and better understanding with the rest of the world.”

Named after his eldest daughter, the resultant company was christened Alia Royal Jordanian Airlines. Although its structure was only finalized on December 8, 1963, the king issued one additional request-namely, that it become airborne within a week.

Achieving what could only have been considered an impossible goal, Ghandour was able to transform plans into planes, acquiring two Handley Page Herald 207s leased from the Royal Jordanian Air Force and a single Douglas DC-7C, with which he inaugurated service from Amman to Beirut on December 15. Cairo and Kuwait were added the following week and a second DC-7 enabled it to serve Jeddah.

Piston engines subsequently yielded to pure-jet ones, with the acquisition of Sud-Aviation SE.210-10R Caravelles, the first of which was delivered on July 29, 1965, and the type facilitated high-speed, above-the-weather services to Europe, principally to Rome and Paris.

Ever combating adversity and obstacle, however, it once again faced an enemy. Seizing control of Jerusalem two years later, in June, Israel instantly pulled the plug on two of the country’s most important resources–tourism and agriculture-significantly decreasing demand for the new carrier’s services, which resulted in low aircraft load factors.

It was during this latest crisis that the Jordanians discovered a third resource-namely, themselves-and only with determination and dedication did Alia remain aloft. The government’s subsequent acquisition of it gave it the necessary financial support.

Having successfully navigated its latest turbulence, it marked its entrance into the 1970s with the acquisition of its first long-range jet aircraft, receiving the first of two Boeing 707-320Cs on January 19 of the following year, and these facilitated route expansion, specifically to Karachi in the east and Madrid, Casablanca, and Copenhagen in the west.

A joint, although brief, service was also operated from Karachi to East Africa with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

The 707 was only the first of several Boeing types acquired. Two 720Bs, for instance, were obtained in 1972 for medium-range, lower-density sectors, while three 727-200 Advanced tri-jets were purchased for short- to medium-range operations. Equipped with a more flexible and economical fleet, it was able to expand within the region and to the European continent.

Entering the widebody era, Alia received the first of two Boeing 747-200Bs on December 15, 1976, which facilitated the launch of transatlantic service from Amman to New York and Houston via Vienna or Amsterdam in July of the following year, the first Arab carrier to do so. It became the first of two widebody types to be operated.

Deviating from its all-Boeing fleet, it ordered six Lockheed L-1011-500s. Entering service in October of 1981 between Amman and London-Heathrow, the tri-engine type enabled the carrier to serve European destinations and several Middle East destinations, such as those to the Gulf States, with widebody aircraft for the first time.

Supplementing its 747s, it operated the Amman-Vienna/Amsterdam-New York routes on select days, as well as a newly inaugurated one to Los Angeles with an intermediate stop in Chicago. The JFK sector was also upgraded to nonstop status and some flights operated through Montreal.

By 1982, it operated seven 707-320Cs, one 720-030B, six 727-200 Advanceds, three 747-200Bs, of which two were in combi configuration with main deck cargo loading capabilities, and two L-1011-500s.

After retirement of the four-engine narrow bodies, by 1985 its fleet centered around the 747 for long-range, high-density routes, the TriStar 500 for medium- to long-range, medium-density segments, and the 727 for short- to medium-range, low-density sectors.

December 15, 1986 marked several milestones: the Jordanian flag carrier celebrated both its tenth anniversary of Middle East-United States service and its silver, quarter century jubilee, marking the occasion with a new corporate image and name, the latter amended from Alia to, simply, Royal Jordanian Airlines, in order to emphasize its identity.

“The new corporate name,” said Ali Ghandour, its Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, “is the embodiment of our sense of heritage, as well as our sense of destiny, of our accomplishments and aspirations, and in the process the ‘royal’ connection that we have maintained since the very beginning is identified, emphasized, and recognized.

“Last but not least,” he concluded, “I wish to stress that we did not seek change for its own sake, but to demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that we are progressive in our outlook, determined in our efforts to forge ahead, and confident as well as full of hopes of a bright future.”

Royal Jordanian’s route system, as of January 1, 1987, consisted of 41 cities in 34 countries on four continents.

Of these, three were long-range North Atlantic routes, including the Amman-Vienna-New York, Amman-Amsterdam-New York, and Amman-Vienna-Chicago-Los Angeles sectors, and two were long-range Far Eastern ones, inclusive of Amman-Bangkok and Amman-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore.

Two North African routes were established, from Amman to Tripoli and from Amman to Tunis and Casablanca, while a single destination was served in the former Soviet Union, Moscow.

European destinations included Amsterdam, Athens, Belgrade, Brussels, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul, Larnaca, London, Madrid, Paris-Orly, Rome, and Vienna.

Not surprisingly, a heavy Middle East route concentration encompassed Abu Dhabi, Amman, Baghdad, Bahrain, Cairo, Damascus, Dhahran, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Karachi, Kuwait, Muscat, Riyadh, and Sana’a.

Its sole domestic sector was that between its hub and Aqaba.

Two joint services were also operated–those to Beirut with Middle Eastern Airlines and to East Berlin with Interflug.

During the five-year period from 1979 to 1983, the annual number of passengers carried included the following: 1979: 915,000; 1980: 1,100,000; 1981: 1,440,000; 1982: 1,667,273; and 1983: 1,457,334.

  1. Subsidiaries

Aside from the airline itself, Royal Jordanian counted several airborne- and ground-based subsidiaries within its portfolio.

Of the former was Arab Air Cargo. Succeeding Jordanian World Airways, which itself had been established in 1974, it was founded in March of 1982 as a joint Jordanian-Iraqi venture and inaugurated cargo service on May 1 of the following year with two 707-320Cs in freighter configuration.

Both a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it flew to cities such as Amman, Amsterdam, Baghdad, Brussels, Dubai, Larnaca, London, and Rome. Six hundred twelve flights were undertaken in 1985, during which 4,521 revenue hours were flown and 21,166 tons of cargo were carried, netting $16.6 million.

Arab Wings, its second subsidiary, provided rapid, on-demand business jet charter service to remote and inaccessible parts of the Middle East and was then the only operation of its kind in the region. Jointly financed by the government of Oman (one-third) and Royal Jordanian itself (two-thirds), it inaugurated service in May of 1975 and operated two six-passenger Gates Learjet 35s and a single eight-passenger Rockwell Sabreliner 75A from Amman and Muscat flight bases.

During the three-year period from 1981 to 1983, it respectively carried 1,636, 2,116, and 1,390 passengers.

A separate branch, Arab Wings Flying Ambulance (AWFA), provided aeromedical service and first took to the sky in 1978.

Sierra Leone Airlines, its third subsidiary, was formed in 1982 to succeed the 1958-established Sierra Leone Airways and inaugurated service that November from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to London, with shared ownership by Royal Jordanian (20 percent), private interests (20 percent), and the Sierra Leone government (60 percent).

Subsequent expansion resulted in the inauguration of international services from Freetown-Lungi to Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Accra (Ghana), Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Las Palmas (Canary Islands), London, Monrovia (Liberia), and Paris, while domestic flights, based at Freetown-Hastings, connected the airport with Bonthe, Kenema, and Yangema, all with one 707-320, one 720, and two Britten-Norman Trislanders. These were later replaced by CASA C-212-200 Aviocars.

Aside from these subsidiaries, Royal Jordanian also had several ground-based ones. These included Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA), which opened on May 25, 1983 and featured two inter-connected terminals with 12 gates and could annually handle up to five million passengers.

Hospitality Service, which had the capacity to prepare 20,000 daily meals for in-flight catering purposes, the terminal restaurant, the snack bars, and the staff cafeterias, managed the four-star, 315-room Alia Gateway Hotel, which opened in 1985 and was used by transit passengers and flight crews. It also oversaw the airport duty free shops.

Royal Jordanian’s training center was subdivided into the Technical Training Institute and the Commercial and Management Center.

Consisting of both civil and military branches, the Royal Jordanian Air Academy, yet another subsidiary, was designated the Regional Technical Center for the Middle East in 1985 by IATA.

Several other concerns included the Queen Noor Civil Aviation Institute; Arab Air Services, which was the engineering consultative branch that aided in the design and construction of the airport itself between 1979 and 1983; the Royal Jordanian Folklore Group; the Alia Art Gallery; and Royal Tours.

  1. RJ Today

Fleet modernization marked the last decade of Royal Jordanian’s 20th century history and signaled a loyalty shift from long-time Boeing and Lockheed products to Airbus Industrie aircraft, the first of which was the A-310-300.

Powered by two high bypass ratio turbofans and flown by a two-person cockpit crew, it replaced the 727s on routes where demand exceeded its capacity or proved too thin for its L-1011s, yet offered twin-aisle widebody comfort. Because of its range capability, it even operated the one-stop Jordan-US transatlantic sectors, particularly during reduced-demand periods.

These, however, were primarily flown by a second Airbus fleet addition, the quad-engine A-340-200, which eventually replaced both the 747s and the TriStars.

Bonafide 727 replacements, on regional, Middle Eastern, North African, and European segments, took form as the twin-engine, narrow body A-319, A-320, and A-321 family, while short- and regional-range routes were flown by yet another type, the dual-class configured Embraer E-175 and E-195, which respectively accommodated 72 and 100 passengers. Both were well-suited to the 45-minute hop between the capital and the Red Sea resort of Aqaba.

Accepted as a member of the Oneworld alliance in 2007, Royal Jordanian continued to upgrade its long-range fleet, acquiring 233,000-kg A-330-200s configured for 24 Crown and 259 economy seats between 2010 and 2011 and 227,930-kg 787-8 Dreamliners respectively accommodating 24 and 247 passengers between August and November of 2014.

The A-310s had intermittently been converted into freighters with upward-opening, main deck cargo doors and the A-340s, because of their no-longer economical, four-engine fuel consumption, were altogether removed from service.

Poised on the threshold of its golden jubilee on December 15, 2012, Royal Jordanian introduced a 50th anniversary livery on one of its aircraft, which re-enacted the carrier’s first scheduled route to Beirut.

Having combated obstacle and regional conflict, it had served as a vital contributor to the country’s culture and economy. With few natural resources, and its agriculture and tourism having once been locked in the occupied West Bank, it had served as the air bridge to the rest of the world, becoming one of the country’s primary revenue sources, and for this reason viewed connecting passengers as vital to its continued existence. As a result, it had, to a significant degree, served as the foundation upon which the country itself had depended.

Reflecting on the carrier’s history during the golden jubilee ceremony held at Queen Alia International Airport in December of 2012, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Nasser Lozi, said, “When His Majesty King Hussein launched Alia-as RJ used to be named-on December 15, 1963, he wanted it to be the national carrier of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with the aim of contributing to the progress of Jordan and promoting interaction with other cultures and establishing relations with other nations… (Today) we are proud of being the national carrier that connects Jordan and the Levant with the world.”

Looking back at its growth, which saw its number of annual passengers increase from 87,000 in 1964 to more than 3.3 million in 2012, President and CEO Amer Hadidi said, “Royal Jordanian has been a pioneer in establishing a solid base for the air transport industry locally and regionally.”

Operating three E-175s, five E-195s, four A-319-100s, six A-320-200s, two A-321-200s, three A-330-200s, and five 787-8s by the end of 2014, Royal Jordanian served 54 destinations on four continents and seemed well profiled to continue the mission its founder established.

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