After spending a few days near Barcelona with extended family, the next stop on my trip was Israel. I prefer to fly nonstop when possible, but unfortunately, I didn’t find any good nonstop options from Barcelona to Tel Aviv. The flights were either departing late at night, or I wasn’t happy with the airline or price. I ended up deciding to book a Royal Jordanian economy flight with American AAdvantage miles. The routing was from Barcelona to Amman and then on to Tel Aviv, all in economy for 20,000 AAdvantage miles and $36 in taxes and fees.
Breaking It Down:
Getting to Barcelona El Prat Airport
My flight departed at 4:30pm. I checked out of my hotel in a little coastal town of Calella and took the direct bus to Barcelona’s El Prat Airport. Barcelona’s airport has two terminals and are only connected by an airport bus. Fortunately, my bus from Calella stopped at both terminals and I didn’t have to worry about in-airport transfer. The terminals are pretty far apart, about 10-15 minute drive, and feel like two separate airports.
If you need to get into the city of Barcelona, there’s an airport train that departs from Terminal 2. It’s a bit of a walk to the train station, and the ride takes about 20 minutes. There are also various airport buses that go into the different areas of the city.
I was in Barcelona about 20 years ago and I remember it being very crowded with tourists, even then. On this trip in August, we spent about half a day in Barcelona, and it was even more crowded than I remember. I knew the city and the entire Mediterranean coast would be jam-packed. Barcelona, like some other major European destinations, is overrun with tourists. All coastal European cities are especially crowded in August, when it feels like the entire continent of Europe is on vacation.
Check In At Barcelona Airport
I found Barcelona airport packed, hot, and the signage a bit lacking. After finally locating Royal Jordanian’s check in area, I found a huge, snaking line of people at check in. There were no self-service kiosks, so the passengers had no choice but to wait in line.
I arrived at the airport two hours before my flight and the check in line didn’t move for the first 20 minutes. I couldn’t see what was going on, but I don’t think they were checking in passengers for some time. After about 20 minutes of waiting, the line started to move briskly.
Odd Questioning At The Check-In Desk
And here’s something I never encountered before on any of my multiple trips to Israel — the check in agent asked me about my final destination, and then asked me if I have a visa to Israel.
I told her that American citizens don’t need a visa to visit Israel. She then asked me if I have a return ticket home to the US. That’s another thing I’ve never been asked, and I’ve traveled to Israel from Europe many, many times.
Good thing I had my return itinerary on El Al printed out, so I dug it out of my carry on. I asked her why she needed to see my return ticket, but she ignored my question.
After the check in ordeal was done, I headed to security, followed by passport control. Both lines were pretty short, there were lots of agents working and I was done in a matter of minutes. I was flying on the same weekend when Iberia and Vueling declared a strike. My hotel receptionist cautioned me that the ground personnel might be doing work “slowdowns,” but, fortunately, that wasn’t the case.
BCN Lounge: Sala VIP Miro Lounge
I was relieved I still had some time before my flight, and headed straight to the lounge. Joan Miro Lounge is just past passport control — turn left, then take the elevator by Burger King.
The lounge has a shower, and after waiting for my bus in the blazing hot sun in Calella and standing in the long check in line, I was dying for a shower. I had to wait for a couple of minutes for one to open up and received a bag with a towel and shower gel from the front desk agent.
Priority Pass Lounge Access
Lounge access is one of the many reasons I keep my Business Platinum Card by American Express. Priority Pass lounge access is one of its most valuable benefits for someone who travels often.
Miro lounge is nothing to write home about, but there are signs that the airport is under renovation and the lounge will be expanded soon. At the moment, there is a dining area, a seating area, restrooms and showers.
There is also a beauty salon offering massages, manicures, pedicures and other treatments for a fee. I didn’t see anyone in there, and, unless you have a very long layover, or your flight is severely delayed, I’m not sure how much use the salon gets.
I was there from around 3:00pm-4:00pm, but the food at the lounge looked more like a continental breakfast spread. There were pastries, yogurt, some cold cuts and breads.
The signs said they offer kosher, halal and gluten-free food on request, but I didn’t have time to find out what that really meant.
I was really curious, because I can’t eat gluten or dairy, and feel like gluten-free food in the lounge is always such a treat. Wines and spirits are all self-serve and there are a couple of coffee machines.
I grabbed a small snack and headed to the gate. The boarding time was 3:55pm for a 4:35pm departure but general boarding didn’t start until 4:10pm. I’ve flown a lot this summer, and the only airlines that started boarding on time were Asiana and ANA (the Asian airlines obviously). They started boarding on the dot and managed to get everyone on board huge planes in about 20 minutes. Definitely something all airlines should learn to do.
Royal Jordanian Airbus A319 Cabin
Boarding took about 30 minutes and Royal Jordanian closed the door about 10 minutes after we were scheduled to depart. We then proceeded to wait on the runway for another 15 minutes.
At this point, I started to get worried. My connection in Amman was only an hour, and I was on the last flight of the day, so there was no time to waste. I spoke to a flight attendant, but he assured me we’d make up time in flight for on time arrival.
The old A319 aircraft has 2-2 configuration in business class, similar to domestic first class here in the US. The economy cabin has three seats on each side.
I had booked my ticket a while ago and, for some reasons, thought that Royal Jordanian had above average leg room. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The cabin felt very cramped and there’s not much leg space. This wasn’t Spirit, but it wasn’t Emirates economy either. I am barely 5’4″ and it was really tight! The 6″ gentleman sitting next to me had his knees rammed into the seat in front of him.
Food And Service
I had no complaints about the service, however. The two flight attendants in economy were very polite and friendly. The in-flight meal was a box with a sandwich, a small side rice salad, water and a small package of baklava. I forgot to take a picture of our meal because I was hungry and unpacked everything before I remembered to get my phone. The drinks cart followed. All soft drinks were complimentary and the flight attendants followed with coffee and tea.
There’s a tiny screen in the seat back that doesn’t serve its purpose anymore — the screen was non-functional. Instead, Royal Jordanian has Sky Connect app that wirelessly streams movies, TV shows, music and games to passengers’ devices. I didn’t know about this until I got on board, so I had to entertain myself with work and my Kindle. The tray table was just wide enough to fit my laptop.
The entertainment box for each non-functioning screen was located underneath each seat, eating into the already limited legroom.
Transferring In Amman’s Queen Alia Airport
As mentioned earlier, I had a very short connection. The flight arrived ten minutes late and we were at a remote stand, but fortunately, the buses were already waiting for us.
I had heard about 15 people speaking Hebrew on my flight (likely going to TLV), so I hoped the next flight would wait for us. I was honestly more concerned about my checked bag making it to my next flight.
Thankfully, Amman’s airport isn’t huge and so late at night it wasn’t crowded at all. I had to go through security again, and they made me take off my watch and swabbed my laptop for explosives.
No need to remove shoes, however. My gate was a very short walk from security so I got there in no time. Unlike in the US and some European airports there were no additional screening for Tel Aviv flights. The part of the airport that I was able to see was nice and modern and, unlike at Barcelona Airport, the air conditioning was working at full blast.
Flight From Amman To Tel Aviv
Boarding was delayed again, and the flight to Israel took off 10 minutes late. That was fine with me — it meant more time for the ground staff to transfer my bag. The passengers were mostly Israeli families coming home just before the start of the new school year.
Looks like Royal Jordanian is very popular with Israelis. The flight attendants passed out juice cups before we even took off, and the flight took a short 35 minutes. Ironically, this A320 aircraft had significantly more legroom than my previous flight. That’s actually what I was expecting all along but maybe I just got unlucky with my first flight.
And I was happy to report, my bag made it to Tel Aviv with me, in spite of the short connection.
The 4.5 hour Barcelona to Amman flight felt much longer because of the tight legroom and no working in-flight entertainment screens. Should I have booked a business class on this flight for 42,500 American miles? That’s more than twice the miles required for an economy flight, so you understand my hesitation.
I have enough AAdvantage miles sitting in my account from opening Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard and no concrete plans for them. The difference in mileage was too much for me after all, and the flight wasn’t that long anyway. Overall, I had a decent experience, partially thanks to great customer service from the flight attendants.
And after seeing the business class cabin, I don’t think I missed much except some leg room. Do you have a rule of thumb or a cut off when you’d book business over economy? Let me know in the comments!
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