Hub of the Levant: The Aviation Landscape of Jordan

Airports & Airlines
Ahmed El Dahan
min read
June 29, 2021

Found in a strategic location at the gateway of the Levant, Jordan has grown to be one of the most essential aviation hubs in the Middle East. With two international airports and a strong flag-carrier airline, the country offers flights to an impressive list of destinations along with facilitating regional travel to nations suffering from political turmoil and travel restrictions. To ensure the safety of its passengers, all of the country’s aviation activity is managed by the Jordan Civil Aviation regulatory commission.


Queen Alia International Airport

Aerial view of Queen Alia International Airport

Found in the Zizya region 30km south of Jordan’s capital Amman, Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) is named after Queen Alia, who died in a helicopter crash in 1977. Along with being home to Royal Jordanian Airlines, it is the country’s main aviation portal serving over 8.9 million passengers in 2019.

Construction of the airport was completed in 1983 to replace Amman Civil Airport, which had outgrown its capacity for air travel demand that at the time was growing at an unprecedented rate. Today QAIA connects Jordan to over 61 destinations. With its two 3,660m runways, the airport accommodates over 49 different carriers both local and international, this includes names such as Turkish Airlines, Air Arabia, Lufthansa and Ryanair.

In 2013, the airport received a new terminal constructed by Airport International Group (AIG) that had been selected by the Jordanian Government to manage and expand the airport. Designed by architects Foster + Partners, its design takes inspiration from tents paying homage to the bedouin natives of Jordan. Concrete was chosen as a prominent building material to battle the extreme temperature fluctuations of the Jordanian desert. The new terminal also features three lounges for business and first-class travelers as well as an extensive duty-free retail space. A second expansion in 2016 further increased QAIA’s passenger potential to 12 million passengers per year.

King Hussein International Airport

King Hussein International Airport in the Aqaba region on the Red Sea

Found in the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, King Hussein International (KHIA) is located in a particular location that falls between the four borders of Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It gives access to the fruitful region that serves Jordan as both an industrial center with growing touristic appeal.

Inaugurated in 1972 by King Hussein, the airport began with a single runway accompanied by a small terminal and a 200x110 square meter parking apron. Expansions in 2002 gave the airport a renovated terminal with added duty-free services along with a new baggage handling system.

The airport sees year-round traffic from airlines - Royal Jordanian, Turkish, Air Cairo along with Jordan Aviation. Furthermore, it receives seasonal voyages from European airlines including easyJet, Ryanair and Nordwind Airlines providing direct flights to European destinations.

Jordan Civil Airport

Built by the British in 1950, this now unscheduled airport was once the country’s main aviation gateway that was replaced by QAIA.  Today it caters to predominantly chartered and private jets and acts as a training ground for aviation professionals.


Royal Jordanian Airlines

Royal Jordanian Airlines

One of the most prominent Middle Eastern flag carriers, Royal Jordanian was established in 1963 as a private company named Alia Royal Jordanian Airlines after King Hussein’s eldest daughter. Soon after however, ownership of the airline was passed on to the Jordanian government which renamed it Royal Jordanian Airlines in 1986.

Initial flights connected Amman to Kuwait City, Beirut and Cairo using Handley Page Dart Heralds and Douglas DC-7 aircraft. Adding Rome to its destinations by 1965 the airline made its first landings in Europe.

Although the airline’s expansion was hampered by regional conflicts that destroyed its DC-7 aircraft, they were replaced with two Fokker F-27 airplanes and the airline continued to diversify its destination network. By 1971, Royal Jordanian was operating its first Boeing 707 aircraft.

Due to financial difficulties, Royal Jordanian Airlines was once again privatized in 2007 in a bid to improve the airline’s performance and increase its profitability. That being the case, the Jordanian government continues to hold a majority stake in the airline and manage its operations.

Today Royal Jordanian Airlines serves over 55 international destinations spanning 29 countries including Montreal, Berlin, Kuala Lumpur and New York City to name a few. Furthermore, it serves Jordan’s two main domestic airports - QAIA and King Hussein International Airport. The airline maintains a fleet of 25 airplanes that include six A320-200s, two A321-200s and seven B787-8s.

Jordan Aviation

A Jordan Aviation airplane

Commencing operations in 2000 under the entrepreneurship of Captain Mohamed Al-Khashman, Jordan Aviation is a private airline owned by Saudi Arabian SWICORP along with Jordanian investors. With headquarters in QAIA, between 2001-03 the airline was most active serving UN peace-keeping troops in the region, which it continues to do today.

Once Aqaba was declared an open sky territory, the airline initiated charter flights from KHIA in 2003 serving regional destinations such as Kuwait City, Doha, Alexandria and Manama.

With 10 aircraft that include three B737-300s and two A320-200s amongst others, Jordan Aviation touches down in Jordan’s two main airports along with six international destinations - Beirut, Dubai, Sharjah, Kuwait City, Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh. The airline employs over 700 staff members and is known for its policy to hire and train fresh graduates in various aviation careers including flight, maintenance, administrative affairs and ground handling.

Arab Wings

Arab Wings Lineage1000 airplane

Owned by the International Wings Group - also the proprietor of Royal Jordanian Air Academy and Queen Noor Civil Aviation Technical College - Arab Wings opened in 1975 as a subsidiary of Royal Jordanian airlines as the first private jet charter operator in the Middle East.

Today Arab Wings offers diverse aviation services that include private charter flights, air ambulance service, aircraft management, and ground handling along with managing a certified aircraft maintenance center. It has a fleet of four aircraft that include one B737-700(BBJ), Legacy 600 and 650 airplanes and a Lineage 1000.

Sky’s the Limit

While Jordan may not have numerous airlines and airport establishments, the country has fostered a high-quality aviation landscape that has solidified it as one of the most important hubs in the Middle East alongside its Egyptian neighbor. That said there is always room for improvement and Jordan stands to harness more profit in the aviation sector with increased private airlines to compete with the Jordanian flag carrier

Ahmed El Dahan
Aviation Journalist
A seasoned writer, Ahmed El Dahan was trained in Journalism and Mass Communication in the American University in Cairo. He then moved on to refine his writing skills working in various publications covering such topics as tourism, art exhibitions, music along with being a food critic. Relocating to Paris in 2015, he has an ever growing curiosity for the aviation industry. Away from the page, Dahan is an active professional saxophonist.

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