How I’ve Gained A New Understanding Of Royal Jordanian Pilots

As I’ve written about, last week I had two flights on Royal Jordanian, from Cairo to Amman and Amman to Kuala Lumpur. A lot of readers asked me questions about this flight, and in particular about whether it gave me flashbacks, given my history with Royal Jordanian.

Interestingly it didn’t. To the contrary, it even helped me understand one aspect of my Royal Jordanian “incident” from several years ago.

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My Royal Jordanian flight from “hell”

For those of you who haven’t been reading for years, in 2013 I took a Royal Jordanian flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong. Out of millions of flown miles, it was the first time in my life that I’ve truly been scared on a plane. To take it a step further, it’s the only time in my life that I thought I’d never again have contact with the outside world.

I know it sounds dramatic, but thinking of the flight still makes me shiver.

Back in 2013, I wrote about the incident just hours after it happened, so feel free to check it out. I was obviously still feeling very emotional about the incident at the time, and said I’d never fly Royal Jordanian again.

After that flight I developed a horrible fear of flying. Flying is my passion, but for months I was terrified every time I got on a plane. My palms would get sweaty, I’d think of everything that could possibly go wrong, etc.

Fortunately about eight months after the incident I got over my fear of flying. It was a gradual process, though now I feel as good about flying as ever before.

What I “fault” the Royal Jordanian pilots for

Ultimately the pilots got us on the ground safely during the incident, so I can only thank them for that. However, what made me really uneasy about the incident was that they didn’t make a single announcement during the entire flight. Don’t get me wrong, once we were in the eye of storm I knew they’d have more important things to do than to make announcements.

However, we were flying into a massive storm, so you’d think before the descent they could have made an announcement letting us know that we’d be flying into a storm, that we have extra fuel loaded for circling, etc.

I have some friends who are airline pilots, and they always say that they like to keep passengers informed as if their family were in the cabin. A small announcement before we flew into storm would have gone a long way. I know for a fact a lot of people (myself included) would have been more at ease if we had at least heard something from the pilots beforehand.

A different perspective on Royal Jordanian pilots

While I faulted their ability to communicate with passengers, there’s no denying that Royal Jordanian has exceptionally good pilots. They’re almost all ex-air force, and Royal Jordanian hasn’t had a major incident in over 35 years. They’re actually often ranked as one of the world’s safest airlines.

So, what was comforting about my recent flights?

Surprisingly I didn’t have any sort of flashbacks on my flight, and quite the opposite, I gained a new understanding of their “procedures.” On neither of my flights did the pilots make any sort of an announcement — not to welcome passengers onboard, not to provide updated landing information, etc. Instead all announcements came from the flight attendants.

While that’s not a system I personally like, this at least helped shed further perspective on the incident I faced a few years back. I guess at Royal Jordanian pilots are responsible exclusively for “their” side of the cockpit door, and their procedure is to never make any announcements.

As backwards as it sounds, knowing that’s the case puts me at ease. I can trust that they’re top notch pilots, but that they just won’t communicate with passengers no matter what.

I would have been more at ease on my flight a few years back if I knew that the pilots wouldn’t be communicating no matter what. The fact that we flew into a massive storm without any sort of pilot announcement made me wonder whether the pilots had done a pre-flight weather check, if they had loaded any extra fuel for the incident, etc. In other words, I may have mistaken the pilots’ lack of communication with passengers with a lack of preparedness

So I felt perfectly at ease on Royal Jordanian, and if anything, my two flights on them have made me feel as good about flying as ever before.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. sorry to be that guy, but might want to change from eye of the storm. The eye of the storm is actually the calmest part and is not turbulent at all

  2. It’s cultural too. Some culture don’t talk a lot. They mind their business.

    Americans are well known for fake smiles. Nothing wrong with that but Americans use different cues to add social grease which in other cultures may be mistaken for something more intimate.

    In any case pilots should be trained to be more communicative and overcome such cultural biases. You should use your platform to effect the change you want to see.

    Also finally you may have had racial bias. How many times you see white male pilot and feel that you will be safe. If you don’t think so anymore its because you have had many experiences to the contrary. I think lot of people still have this bias. You probably thought these are Jordanian pilots, do they know their shit?

  3. OK, let me see if I have this straight. The pilots are responsible for everything on their side of the cockpit door (the cockpit) and the flight attendants are responsible for everything on their side (the cabin). Notice anything missing? How about the wings! Who is responsible for those?

    This is why I’m always nervous when an airline hires “the troops” to fly the plane. Sometimes too much focus is a bad thing.

  4. I am a pilot (not as a profession) and have several close friends and relatives that are pilots for major air carriers; universally, it is their opinion that cultural “differences” are almost always the cause of air incidents outside of the U.S. Having spent years interacting with many, many cultures around the globe, I absolutely take airline country of origin into account when booking on a carrier. Yes, I have flown some really shady airlines, but I accepted beforehand that the risk was likely elevated. So yes, “Credit” I do have a “bias.”

  5. OK, a couple things.
    First, you love to say “Flying is my passion”. I’m sorry, but the crew up front are doing the flying. You are not flying. You are a passenger, along for the ride. Its the difference between being the driver and a passenger in the back seat. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the ride (on the highway or in the sky) but keep that in perspective. “Riding along as a passenger is my passion” may not sounds quite so impressive, but its what you mean.
    Second, most non-pilots are in no position to judge safety issues and pretty much always see things incredibly wrong. While your ride may have been bumpy, and it may have scared you and others (a lot), after reading your description of things I am sure that your fears were not justified. You experienced some turbulence, and some bad weather. You may think this was something extraordinary and you came within an inch of death, but really, that is just you being dramatic. Come on, turbulence and bad weather are routine occurrences, and if you’re going to let that spook you so easily, you might want to find some other way to make a living.
    Finally, you display yet once again your naivety about the world, always expecting other cultures to follow the norms you know. For someone who moves around the world a lot, you seem to never really get outside the bubble provided by expensive chain hotels, airline lounges and forward cabins. What a waste of jetfuel!

  6. Excellent perspective Lucky and so glad you were able to fly them again. But I do think that pilot announcements are possibly the most reassuring thing about flying. I was recently on BA from LHR and just before landing into SIN we hit a horrendous storm, lightning all round us and landing was aborted. A go around in an A380 is an impressive feat I’ll tell you! As the engines powered us up full throttle we could hear the thunder booming right outside. Nothing immediate from the pilots but once we were safely out of it, maybe 15 mins later, one of them got on the PA and explained everything. It was so reassuring. We diverted to KL to refuel and made it back to SIN a few hours later. The whole way the pilots kept us informed and I can’t fault them for anything.

  7. As someone who flys recreationaly, you really need to take into perspective that during a situation that requires my full concentration and attention, making announcements is not the priority. Landing the aircraft safetly is. Be aware pilots are humans too and after a stressful landing they may not feel comfortable going on the PA.

  8. Curious, @Lucky, do you still “think twice about which airlines [you] fly,” as you wrote after the RJ incident in 2013? You’ve flown a lot of lesser-known airlines since then, so I’m wondering if you ever think about pilot qualifications on those flights. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are a lot of young pilots flying big planes for foreign carriers; in contrast, it’s rare to see younger pilots on the mainline US legacy fleets, especially the wide-bodies.

  9. I don’t think many pilots, whether commercial or recreational, have a very valid perspective on what it’s like to be a passenger on an airplane. Very different experience than getting to press the buttons, push the stick, flip the switches, etc. If more pilots tried being a passenger for once, maybe we would all understand each other a little better.

  10. Maybe the pilots don’t speak English that well. It has to be good enough for ATC communications, but maybe it’s not good enough to make nontechnical announcements. If they did make announcements, they would be in Arabic, which is their country’s language. Nothing wrong with that.

  11. I flew RJ from KUL to BKK back in 2015, and the captain actually made a super long announcement in two languages during the flight. It was so clear, with many specific details about the flight.

  12. @Nat: No, “Flying” is indeed the accurate term to use here. When you are travelling through the air in a plane as a passenger, you are FLYING. The people at the front of the plane are doing the PILOTING. If you’re going to make such a ridiculous assertion and say that passengers are not entitled to refer to themselves as flyers, I expect you to email airlines and state that they are misleading the public with their marketing (http://www.qantas.com/travel/airlines/fly/global/en) – wow, Qantas are offering me the opportunity to pilot (fly) their planes!?!

  13. Interesting post. However, the pilots should not have remained in a holding pattern in the middle of a severe storm. Either change altitude or divert. That’s what most American or European pilots would have done.

  14. As a pilot who works for one of the US’s big three, it always cracks me up reading non-pilots perspective on my job. I will admit that some pilots don’t give enough info and some give too much. I have had flights where I’ve gotten compliments from one passenger for giving information and another pax tell me I didn’t tell enough…..both comments in the same flight.

    At my airline, we have a slogan…aviate, navigate, communicate. We HAVE to fly the airplane first…I won’t say why, I think that’s obvious. Then we have to make sure the airplane is going where we want it to. After both of those are taken care of, we talk….to the controllers, to the F/A’s, and to the PAX.

    I am not arguing that the criticism of this pilot in this instance isn’t warranted. But I don’t think someone not in the cockpit has any insight as to what his workload was at the time and how much he should or should not have talked to the passengers.

    @Hoswa…what? Yes, we know what being a passenger is like. We deadhead (fly as a passenger during a trip) all the time and when we go to training, we have to deadhead to get there as well. Many pilots commute to work so they fly as a passenger both going and returning from work.

  15. It is accurate to state that all US airlines can never compete with foreign airlines when it comes to FAs, hard and soft products. But it is undeniable for me that US pilots are the best in the profession. I also try to fly as many different airlines as I can for comparison purpose, but US pilots are superb when it comes to take-off and landing and turbulence. I prefer that pilots/ co-pilots warn passengers that the plane heads toward turbulence and explain the event after the fact. Last month, we flew on Austrian airline: The pilot warned us there was a turbulence ahead and concluded his announcement with “Good bye”. It freaked my daughter as if it meant the plane would go down soon.

  16. Royal Jordanian makes an announcement upon takeoff on all flights both in English and Arabic – not sure the article is very accurate in that sense.

  17. @zeid Are you sure that’s the pilot making announcements? I think that’s the flight attendent doing it.

    @Nat Could your comments be a little less snarky? I can assure you that as a frequent flyer I am flying in the air on a plane whether I’m piloting the plane or not. That’s a bit rediculous. Also, I hope when you have a major scare at some point that others will be more empathetic than you. That’s just wrong.

  18. I prefer over communication from pilots in cases like this. My flight on a major US airline had a near miss a few months a few months ago (IAH). What reassured me was the calm announcement the pilots made explaining what had happened and that everything was going to be fine. I could see people with scared looks on their faces as they had seen the other plane on the runway that we were touched down on for a second.

  19. I flew with them last week 4 times and had announcements in 2 of the flights. I found them quite inconsistent – as was the service. 4 flights, 8 meals and not 1 was the same. Quite interesting

  20. Pilots being ex-military is not necessarily a plus. Check out China Airlines and their accident history before joining SkyTeam. Most pilots were ex Taiwanese Air Force. Deference to hierarchy instead of CRM, undue risk taking, etc.

  21. @Nat Lucky is better at his blog than you are at anything else in your miserable life. I’ve never posted on this site before, but I’ll make an exception in order to tell you to grow up or drop your turds in other punchbowls.

  22. Even Capt. Sully was able to announce “break for impact” and he had no time at all. FYI, just watched the movie and it was excellent, both to see what they did and the crap they had to go through afterwards.

  23. @Shirley – Sully only said that one line to the passengers during the entire time the plane was falling and it was right when he knew they were going to crash. He *needed* to give that order to make sure the cabin was prepared.

    Furthermore do not make the naive mistake of believing that the Hollywood portrayal of the investigation was anything close to the truth. The NTSB gave Sully and Skiles high marks for their actions and at no point were they trying to frame them for anything.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-07/crash-investigators-pan-their-portrayal-as-villains-in-sully

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