Skip to content

EasyJet drops Amman, favours Tel Aviv

29 January 2014

easyjettailfinEasyJet is pulling out of the Jordanian capital Amman. The route, which launched in March 2011 with flights from London Gatwick, will be withdrawn in May 2014, with the last flight departing Amman on Sunday 4th May. It was the only route easyJet maintained to Jordan.

UPDATE: Venture, a Jordanian business magazine, covers the story here, quoting me.

On the other hand, easyJet is continuing its policy of going big into Israel. It already flies to Tel Aviv from Manchester and Luton (as well as Geneva and Basel). As news of the Gatwick-Amman cancellation slipped out, easyJet announced that from April 2014 it will be adding a new route to Tel Aviv… from Gatwick.

Then it announced another new route to Tel Aviv from Berlin, lauching February 2014. Then another, from Milan (starting March 2014), to add to Rome-Tel Aviv (launched September 2013). There are rumours of Paris launching in summer 2014.

Why? Well, easyJet has published figures on its website – from a survey of easyJet passengers to TLV done in July 2013 – talking about how “Tel Aviv’s appeal as a popular leisure destination has been growing”. That’s undoubtedly true. Good for Tel Aviv – it’s a great city, they have great beaches, great food. And (more to the point) great PR, the kind of shiny, happy PR that turns heads away from bad stuff. Holidaymakers’ heads. Travel writers’ heads.

Tel Aviv also has a rock-solid base of two-way VFR. Airlines like VFR.

For Jordan, this is an unmitigated disaster. I’ve been hearing that easyJet may have pulled out because of a hike in taxes imposed by the Jordanian government on air travel. Everyone departing Amman’s Queen Alia airport now pays JOD40 (£35/US$56) in ‘embarkation tax’, plus another JOD6 (£5/US$8) in ‘terminal usage fee’ – with both charges hidden in the total cost of an airfare. Maybe easyJet felt that these were pushing its fares too high for its own comfort. Maybe the sweeteners, financial breaks and enticements that many airlines seek from governments, public authorities and airports to serve their destination weren’t forthcoming from Amman – but were from Tel Aviv. I’m not an aviation analyst. I don’t know.

One thing’s for sure. After 3 years of flying London-Amman, easyJet couldn’t make the numbers work in their favour. They have no sentimentality. They pulled out. And the chitchat that says they’re considering launching into Aqaba instead sounds to me like the callowest, straw-clutchingest kind of wishful thinking.

I’ve heard rumours that the palace was furious that Jordan lost easyJet. Who knows what the truth of that is. But you could hardly blame HM if he blew his top.

With Jordan’s tourism industry – like its whole economy – in desperate stagnation, the last thing the country needed was this kind of withdrawal of international business confidence.

And travellers are now forced back to a 1990-style duopoly, controlled by the dead hands and high fares of the legacy carriers. Low-cost connections to European markets are essential. Arguably more essential for Jordan, at this stage, than a short-term gain in tax receipts at the expense of throttling medium- & long-term economic growth.

Easy came. Easy went.

About these ads
27 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 January 2014 10.46am

    Good post Matthew. Hard to imagine, isn’t it, that Easyjet didn’t give any warning to the Jordanian govt & Amman airport that they were considering this pull out? I mean, there must have been discussions. Negotiations. Surely the Jordanians ran the numbers: how many ppl arrive by Easyjet, how many would not have come otherwise, how much do they spend per person, what’s the net value to the Jordanian economy. Even without knowing the details it’s difficult to see how the Jordanians decided that it was worth losing this influx of cash-spending human beings. So, accepting that it’s a financially disastrous outcome for Jordan, what’s your explanation? Why did the Jordanians let this happen? Simple ineptitude? Rigidity of legal procedure making it impossible to bend the tax / airport rules for Easyjet? Any other ideas?

  2. 29 January 2014 5.45pm

    It’s such a shame that they will be pulling out, Jordan is a country I think everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime and now that will be governed by who can afford the airfares of the likes of BA and RJ. I’m very found of Sleazy Jet despite it’s bad rep. Hopefully many people made use of this route whilst it was in operation. If they were to fly in and out of Aqaba I wonder if there would be such high taxation given the tax-free zone status? I wonder would that apply to airfare too?

  3. 29 January 2014 9.13pm

    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting. Im glad I got to take advantage of the route while it was available. :) Jordan is the most amazing country I’ve been too.

  4. 29 January 2014 10.22pm

    Many thanks, everyone. @cottontails – you’re right. EasyJet serves an important sector of the market, which the legacy carriers miss (or ignore). Those are good questions about Aqaba – the issue there, as I understand it, is more about the impossibility of Aqaba being able to meet easyJet’s demands for financial enticements, rather than taxation on airfares.

    And that feeds into what @daniel says (thank you for a great response, Dan). You’re absolutely right – I’m sure there were prolonged discussions. To answer your questions, it seems to me there are 3 possible answers.

    1) Simple ineptitude: the Jordanians have no idea what they’re doing. Or:
    2) Jordan couldn’t pay what EasyJet were demanding in order to continue flying: the Jordanians are fully on top of the situation but financially constrained from acting in their own best interests. Or:
    3) EasyJet passengers – and the wider business implications of having Europe’s 4th- or 5th-largest airline serve your capital – are of less net value to the Jordanian economy than you and I think they are: the Jordanians are acting prudently and intelligently by letting EasyJet go.

    3 would surprise me. 1 wouldn’t surprise me, but I’d stop short of suggesting it as the likeliest option. 2 sounds most plausible to me.

    Any sharper takes on this?

  5. 30 January 2014 3.10am

    That is too bad. I love Jordan, one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. I want to see it be a successful travel destination but this does not help.

  6. Ali permalink
    30 January 2014 5.55am

    To be fair the launch of Easyjet flights to Amman coincided with the start of the so called Arab spring, I don’t think anyone had that in mind when they were planning the launch but I can see how things didn’t turn out as planned simply because Jordan as a tourism destination suffered a huge blow due to regional events. Had easyjet launched in ‘normal’ circumstances then who knows how things would have turned put but I suspect that Easyjet would have brought in a new segment of passengers to Jordan, this was simply not possible on this occasion, the rise in airport taxes could simply have been the extra straw.

  7. 30 January 2014 9.59am

    Thanks @Jeff – a lot of people feel the same. If only Jordan could capitalise on the support it has among travellers and the tourism industry around the world…

    @Ali – great point. The only problem with what you say is how can we define ‘normal circumstances’? Tourism in the Middle East has been on a rollercoaster since 1999 at least – up, down, up, down, with each new political problem. Seems to me that the tourism industry across the region would do better to face up to continuing instability and work with it, rather than planning & strategising for ‘normal circumstances’ then being caught out every time.

  8. 31 January 2014 4.25pm

    My family is from Northern Iraq, we speak Aramaic and are called “Chaldeans”. Have you ventured to this area at all? I have never visited the Middle East myself.

  9. Khalil permalink
    1 February 2014 7.00am

    Our Jordanian government is short sighted.. I am sure they don’t even look at the data ..But easy jet customers need to hear the actual reason for their pull out from Jordan …

  10. 1 February 2014 9.36pm

    A reblogué ceci sur sferradicommunication.

  11. 1 February 2014 11.28pm

    very unfortunate, thanks Matthew
    perhaps the fact that the Ministry of Tourism doesn’t have a dedicated minister in Jordan… he is sharing the post with Ministry of Labor… not to mention that he is totally unfamiliar with tourism and is not from the sector …
    yet another bump on the road

  12. Louby permalink
    3 February 2014 1.06pm

    Devastated at this decision! However, if it is because of airport taxes….surely it needs addressing this end rather than blaming SleazyJet (this time).
    As a fairly new ex-pat living in lovely Aqaba, this news means that alot less people are able to visit us here. (BA for a family of 4 is expensive, plus layover times with Turkish airlines going via Istanbul are terrible if you have young children)! The impact on the economy here will be hugely affected too. It has already been recorded that visitors to world wonder Petra this January has seen 12% LESS tourists than last January. I can only hope that the rumours of another airline choosing to fly UK to Aqaba direct will come up soon….for selfish reasons but also for the many, many people missing out on visiting this wonderful country.

  13. Layla permalink
    3 February 2014 2.37pm

    Actually, I am not at all bothered with the news. I think RJ provides a much better service. And to be honest am glad thwy decided to leave Jordan mainly because it will boost ticket sale to our local airline, which btw is getting better than before. I wonder, however, why do you consider it big news (or at least this is what seems to be from the way you write)? I think it’s natural that an airline considers pulling out of a country if it’s not making any profit. It definitely won’t bother the majority of Jordanians and certainly not the king. We have bigger things to deal with I’m sure.

  14. 4 February 2014 9.58am

    I don’t know who is to blame for this, but I do want to add a note of personal experience, as a frequent UK-Jordan traveler. This may not be all the fault of the Jordanians: EasyJet’s service to Jordan wasn’t very good.

    The flights only went to Gatwick, so not a lot of options there. (It was particularly inconvenient for me in terms of places I was going.) And they arrived there at 1 am or something ridiculous, which meant either a long 2 am drive, or the extra expense of a hotel, or a huge inconvenience to the friends or family picking you up. It made transfers almost impossible. Add to that: five hours is starting to be a long flight for uncomfortable EasyJet seats (I’m 6″, and not huge, but my shoulders are wider than their seat, and I’m eating my knees — fine for a hop across the channel, but not so much for Europe to Asia.) Again and again, I found myself paying more for other carriers, because what EasyJet offered was a inconvenient and uncomfortable trip.

    Of course, another way to look at that is they couldn’t bring their prices low enough to entice me to accept the BS — that may in part be because of taxes. But it’s also my experience that for most of the past two years, BMI has been offering full service flights, with full size seats, with more options, at rates only slightly higher than EasyJet, or sometimes equivalent. (It was seasonal, in some seasons BMI was more expensive.) So I feel EJ could have done better.

    I don’t know whose fault it is that thay had terrible travel times — is that QAIA, or GoJ, or EasyJet itself? I don’t know why they couldn’t get their fares lower. But it does seem possible that EasyJet played some role in sinking this venture, by not investing enough in it in the first place to make it attractive.

  15. Madian permalink
    4 February 2014 10.10am

    I took easy jet on that route. it was always packed…and off season. I also know for a fact that alot of the Arabs of Jordan, and even the West Bank with lower incomes found it affordable and used it often. I have also seen alot of our young students here in amman and in the UK use it with frequency. I’m sure the authorities are to blame for being greedy in one way or another.I refuse to believe that it was anything other than that. All we have to do is see how the government’s track record on economic policies and strategies raising taxes and prices and their successfull ways of driving foreign investers from our country.
    It’s such a shame that doors arent fully open for everyone to see how great Jordan is as a destination.

  16. 7 February 2014 11.19am

    Thanks, everyone, these are great comments. A few replies:

    @Layla – thank you for your thoughts. Intriguing. Is it possible to be proud of RJ for being Jordanian, but still criticise their prices & business practices? Does patriotism imply that everything your country does is the best it could be? I’m amazed that you feel such a rejection by a major world business isn’t news for a small, struggling economy like Jordan’s. Doesn’t Jordan need all the help it can get right now?

    @Nick – valuable insight, and spot on, as usual! There’s another blog post in this, about flight times between London & the Eastern Med. A 5hr flight, with a 2hr (or, in Jordan’s case, 3hr) time difference, almost always means a very early check-in or a very late end-of-journey arrival on either the outbound or the return (or both). EJ fit squarely into that pattern. But the fares? And the loads? I also don’t know…

    @Madian – great to see you here, and thank you for expressing your views so clearly.

  17. Maxime permalink
    11 March 2014 6.26am

    It is too easy to say That the service on RJ is good, but our family have had terrible service on occasions from RJ, How about not being able to use the business class toilets when economy toilets not servicable, rude arrogant staff? we use EJ a lot (monthly, and have no complaints!) Your comment says it all, protect the local carrier. So we will pack our bags, lterally and stop spending 1000,s every year in Jordan. RJ cares about itself, not the general tourist industry, we have beenliving travelling to Jordan for 18 years now, have an appartment, pay our taxes, and quite frankly love the place and the epeople and friends, but the duopoly on the route will not be getting our money. If the only choice is RJ, then we won’t come!

  18. 26 March 2014 8.31am

    That’s a pity, Maxime. RJ isn’t the greatest, but I’ve never had experiences as bad as you have. But RJ is – as far as I know – never the only choice: there’s always the option of another carrier. I hope you find a way to still make it to Jordan.

  19. John Miller permalink
    3 April 2014 10.33pm

    Matthew, we’re moving to Jordan soon and the loss of this route has really made it harder price-wise! Do you think there might be a cheaper alternative by going via a stopover in Europe rather than direct? Either that or Royal Jordanian it seems

  20. 18 April 2014 11.48am

    hi John – yes, it’s often cheaper to go via a European hub – Turkish Airlines often have competitive prices, but the connection times at Istanbul can be inconvenient.

  21. john permalink
    6 May 2014 8.16am

    i do hope the come back… How feasible is it to connect via tel aviv has anyone done it? Would it be quicker than the turkish layover? indeed is there even a bus/coach/ reasonably priced flight between the cities?

  22. claudia permalink
    8 May 2014 10.47pm

    this is not good, I hope easyjet will consider flying to Aqapa Jordan soon….

  23. 9 May 2014 8.42pm

    I was lucky enough to make one last trip there last month but had no idea about this. I always use Easyjet to fly to Jordan to visit friends (I used to live there) and am really sad to hear that it will be harder – or at least more expensive – to do so from now on.

  24. 11 June 2014 3.21pm

    Yes, looks like it will be both of those – harder and pricier…

  25. 11 June 2014 3.22pm

    Yes, you & me both!

  26. 11 June 2014 3.23pm

    In theory there is a bus running between Amman and Tel Aviv, but in practice there isn’t enough custom and so it often stops short at Nazareth instead. You can fly – but it’s very expensive. And the overland journey via Jerusalem is long and complicated…

Trackbacks

  1. Increasing tourism is priority for Jordan | PATA West Asia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,651 other followers

%d bloggers like this: