The King at the Airport
How many times does HM King Abdullah have to visit the Queen Alia Airport to get its managers to fix it? A few years ago the king visited the airport and said he was unhappy about the way things are handled there. Things have only slightly improved since then. A renovation process took ages to be completed (remember when the side walks were gutted and building materials where laying around for months?) and that too didn’t improve the airport much.
This morning’s papers have all highlighted, on the front page, the King’s visit to airport and his harsh comments. The Jordan Times reports:

King Abdullah on Monday said he was dissatisfied with bureaucratic procedures at the Queen Alia International Airport, and ordered measures to facilitate traveller movement and comfort.

“This is not the first time I visited the airport. Every time we take measures to facilitate procedures for travelers, we return and find the same obstacles again,” the King told officials at the airport during a visit.

“Some procedures are unjustified and create obstacles, although they can be solved through simple and immediate decisions.”

The Monarch gave airport authorities seven days to agree on one body that will be in charge of “solving all the problems as soon as possible”.

It’s good that the people responsible have been given this ultimatum!

I find it alarming that facilities that are very visible and vital to Jordan’s citizens and visitors alike and that create a lasting first impression are in such a retarded shape. If we can’t fix those high visibility things what should we expect to find in some forgotten government service that is not frequented by foreign guests.

Examples of the airport nonsense are:

  • Going to a special counter to pay airport tax when leaving the country (I have not seen this in any other country)
  • The long queues at the airport counters when coming back (the endless typing the police have to do for every passport).
  • The policeman after the passport counter who’s only function in life (he and his three friends sitting with him) is to check the stamp you just got at the counter.
  • The sometimes loud-mouthed “shabab” in blue overalls at the baggage belt, who always seem to be about to start a fight with each other.
  • The state of the baggage conveyor belts.
  • The fact that the ‘electronic gate’ equipment has been there for months but is not operational
  • The guy at the parking ticket machine, who’s job is to pull the ticket out of the self-service(!) machine and hand it to you.
  • The fact that your baggage will always fall off the cart when you try to roll it from the side walk to the parking lot (via a broken incline that is not worthy of slum, let alone an airport).
  • The UNBELIEVABLE fact that there is STILL no big electronic signage that can be seen from your car as you approach the airport, telling you which flight is arriving at what terminal.
  • The non-enforced NO SMOKING policy.

And even though I never fly business or first class, a friend of mine recently invited me into the first/business class lounge. It’s like a trip back to the 80’s. The service was actually OK. But the the whole look of it was so outdated.

The airport seems to be a run-down nest for outdated practices, people and interests. What it needs is someone who has an iron fist when it comes to the passenger experience. Someone with authority to call the shots and be able to tell EVERYONE at the airport how thing are going to be done. No exceptions here and there. No useless people standing around. No broken sidewalks. No loudmouthed baggage guys.

When you arrive in Dubai or Qatar, not only are you greeted by modern buildings (OK ,they have the money), but you also see a cleaner environment and a more efficient system.

Furthermore, why can the ‘conservative Gulf’ states staff their passport counters with elegantly dressed and groomed men and LADIES (in their traditional civilian dress) while the visitor to Jordan is greeted into the country by policeMEN (sometimes with sweaty heads).

I am not saying that we should have people in traditional dress. But why not young Jordanian men and women in civilian dress.

In the Gulf, the baggage porters are are from the indian subcontinent. They are there to do their job. Period. But in Jordan.. Nooo, these guys are there, probably their pride ‘hurt’ that they have to ‘serve’ and they compensate for that by always seeming to be on verge of a fight.

We don’t need fancy buildings or another renovation. We need a group of empowered people who come and fix the human and service aspects of the airport. This needs to be done now and with vigor.

If HM The King has to visit the airport again and nothing has changed I would suggest he fires those responsible immediately.

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12 responses to “King Abdullah: “You have one week to fix the airport management””

  1. Nas Avatar

    excellent post Ahmad

  2. Roofa Avatar

    They hire incompetents based on an entrenched system of political loyalties and tribalism not on competence, then we are surprised by the poor performance.

  3. Iyad Avatar

    Hello Ahmad,
    I totally agree with what you had to say and report.
    It is the same darn experience each time you arrive amman.
    I would like to share this unforgettable memory with you (and the readers) if I may…
    It was when we arrived Amman around 5:00am coming from a long cennected trip, very tired but also excited to see family and all. The very first something we saw as we walked through the tunnel towards the building is a couple of guys, one in uniform (non-civilian) and simply looking everybody with a frown (of course), this is not news unfortunately, however, the other guy seemed to be his friend, he was wearing something that is neither a sleepware and neither a training suit and dull ‘kammooni’ in color(I am sure you know what I am talking about!) he was unshaved, his hair undone, and was totally out of context. He was over confidently smiling; considering the horrible smoking signs inside his mouth to say the least. The only place he would fit is sleeing in bed after a long long day!
    Before anybody gets me wrong I am by no means making fun of people with poor financial and health conditions. But you can imagine how irrelivant he was to the whole situation. His on-duty friend has abused his authority and brough his smiling friend to a high security and very sensetive place. I am sure that all the people who were on that flight (at least) are sharing this not so pleasant memory as well.
    A few steps further, another non-civilian was sitting on a chair, also gazing at the arriving croud, he was sitting at the side of the walkway but still in the way of moving people, when I passed him, I simply said (Assalamu Alaikom) , I am sure I said it naturally and without thinking as he must have been very close and we must have made some good eye-contact and I had to react! Guess what he answered back? he said “Hala!” with a tone of denial and then made a gesture as if he was telling anyone who witnissed this “look at this relegious fanatic!” that was so disappointing considering that where I had been living recently has taught me to smile whenever you come face to face with others! I was not excpecting the full Wa Alikom Assalam Answer and I do not need it from him, he could have said ‘hala’ with a neutrul tone or even just nodded without having to smile back; or even NOTHING! I feel frustration and pain whenever I remember this and the like experiences; expeiences that are totally avoidable with some common sense and sensitivity, and ofcourse eventually with the iron fist like you mentioned.

  4. Batir Avatar

    Excellent analysis. I think the basic two problems are the smoking and baggage guys as well as the taxi drivers. All other issues can be handled and I have seen worse in some European airports.

  5. Mohammed Raei Avatar
    Mohammed Raei

    This is not limited to the airport, it seems that many ministers and various government employee are so incompetent that the king has to interfere on a regular basis.

  6. Summer Avatar

    more of this stuff thanks!

  7. Dave Avatar

    God save the King (and his opinion on our run-down airport). I just spent time in the Tunisian and Algerian airports and both were much nicer and better managed than Queen Alia International. And if tourist-unfriendly Algeria is doing a better job, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

  8. Nart Seine Avatar
    Nart Seine

    Terrific post! Hopefully the airport wont need yet another visit from the King for them to straighten up their act. Its about time that ‘evil stare of death’ guy who’s always waiting for passengers at the end of the airplane tunnel is disposed of!

  9. Atallah Avatar

    Like M. Raei said, it is not only the airport, it is every darn institution in the country.
    Almost nothing seems to function as supposed to unless his majesty interferes personally and gives an ultimatum or a warning. Many heads of departments across the different institutions of the government are incompetent and incapable of making decisions or taking any effective steps to improve their departments or the services they are supposed to provide.
    Part of the problem is in the mentality that everyone thinks they are God’s gift to Jordan and that they are entitled to do nothing and still get paid by the end of the month!

  10. T Avatar

    I left QAIA last Sunday and was horrified to see, whilst going through the search room for females, that one of the women (police? army?) was lying asleep on a chair whilst her companion did the search. I think it is the smoking and immigration procedures that annoy me the most though I did not have to queue for as long a time as at Heathrow.
    Seeing the chaos at London Heathrow made me think that QAIA has its bad points but is not as bad as Heathrow. We sat on the aircraft for 20 minutes after landing then they could not find us a connection to the terminal so had to park and be bussed into the terminal – luckily it was not raining. T

  11. Dalia Avatar

    don’t get me started! While leaving Amman yesterday – I placed my luggage in the security clearance (right when you enter – before check-in), went to the ladies security check, only to come out to find one of my bags missing!!

    And the gallant men and officials of the airport??! “we can’t do anything to help you – you have to check with Dubai airport!”


    Never mind the fact that none of the airport employees volunteer to help carry my bags or place them on the trolley – even when they see a lady travelling alone trying to balance a half-asleep toddler with heavy luggage..



    Seriously – I have never been more pissed in my life!

    and the bag that was taken? Oh nothing, it just had all my family pictures and albums since 1975. I was taking them to scan them and make a digital archive..

    The irony? I put them in a carry-on bag so they wouldn’t be lost in the luggage if i checked them in!!

    Bag still hasn’t showed up :(

  12. Toujan Avatar

    Ahmad, do you think HRM reads the number one Jordanian blog?
    I sure hope he does!

    HRM, I recommend SYNTAX handle the branding of the airport! for starters, I think I would like it to be renamed Amman International Airport, cause that’s what it really is. Think about it, we’re even promoting Amman more with that name. “I’m flying to from London to Dubai through Amman International Airport”… there you go!