On Imprint’s foray into the Middle East, Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) has been a source of both severe frustration and wonderful cultural connection. When our first Imprint group checked in for our Cairo to Amman flight a few weeks ago, three people could not produce the credit card with which they’d purchased their E-tickets (including me, Maia, and one tour member – my CC had expired and been replaced). I begged, cajoled, joked, cried, fumed, and threatened. No efforts produced any flexibility and, in the end, I had to purchase three new tickets on the spot. The Cairo branch manager swore there was nothing he could do to fix the problem. Frustrated, angry, and short $750 I boarded our flight.
In the meantime, I contacted my bank, got the old card numbers and a letter officially stating that the card I am carrying is the replacement for the original used to book my two flight tickets. The third person later found their original credit card and I had armed myself with a photocopy. Today, I am flying through Amman on my way back to Cairo. I have 3 hours to kill – a perfect opportunity to rectify the situation with a refund.
Like everything that appears to be simple to the western mind, resolving this issue was very complicated here in the Middle East. Just finding the correct person to talk to was an ordeal. Conservatively, I spoke to 8 or 9 people before I found someone who really understood what I needed. I had read that people hear want to be helpful and will give you directions even if they don’t know what you are looking for. There were plenty of dead ends and false leads. I finally found someone to help, Mr. Haitham Alshaibi, working the checkin at RJ’s premium class lounge. He understood my problem, knew who could fix it, and called for someone from security to escort me out of the transit terminal (and then back in later) so I could plead my case at the sales office. Turns out, even they were unable to help me. But Mr Hamza H Altarawneh called, found out how to solve my problem, gave me the proper email address for making my appeal, and promised my issue would be resolved without penalty. He was helpful, pleasant, sympathetic, and friendly. I left that office feeling mostly confident I would get a refund. Time will tell.
After security escorted my through the X-ray checkpoint I decided to go back and thank Mr. Alshaibi. I offered to buy him a coffee as a gesture of thanks but he graciously refused. And then he made all the hassle worthwhile. He invited me to enjoy the benefits of the premium lounge as his guest while I waited for my flight. That magnanimous gesture was so compassionate and so welcome. It was one of those cultural connection experiences I love to talk and write about, and why I travel. So I’m writing this blog in the comfort of the RJ lounge, enjoying a cappuccino and some snacks, my emotional ledger balanced by two kind Jordanian citizens who treated me as a person and not a number or dollar sign.