Royal Air Maroc Expands Service as an International Gateway – Jean R. AbiNader
*Morocco Broadens Air Connections with Africa and the World*
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 24, 2014
Less than five years ago, if you had asked someone about the future of Royal Air Maroc (RAM), you would probably have gotten a sad shake of the head. Like many airlines in less developed countries, it had a downward reputation for service, and profitability was only a dream.
But something happened in 2011 when the government mandated a broad restructuring of the airline. For a change, the reset worked. It didn’t require being taken over by an outside airline or changing its fleet. Instead, RAM reduced its staff from 5,000 to 2,700, invested in upgrading its transit shopping facilities, improved and expanded its catering capabilities, and closed unprofitable routes. RAM also sold off some aircraft that had high operating costs and did not fit in with the new emphasis on longer-haul flights.
Estimates are that in 2014, RAM will enjoy its third year in a row of profitability. As importantly, it will take delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, giving it more options in serving high return markets such as the US and Canada. According to Breaking Travel News, RAM will boost the number of flights to New York and Montreal to two daily, as the 787s will complement the existing 767-300ERs that currently serve those routes.
Future growth east, south, north, and west
When asked about RAM’s next steps for the next three Dreamliners, deputy chief executive Habiba Laklalech said in addition to the North American routes, the second 787 will be assigned to a Casablanca-Dubai non-stop to be inaugurated in March 2015; and the third delivery will be assigned to a Casablanca-Beijing route, Morocco’s first to Asia. The current fleet of 767s will remain with the airline as its 787s arrive, adding extra capacity to boost frequency on its route to Sao Paulo, according to the magazine.
For travelers who have had to endure the challenge of taking RAM through JFK, the Moroccan airline now has agreements for interline tickets that facilitate one-stop travel and seamless luggage transfers with JetBlue Airways for the US, and with Canadian airline WestJet for its destinations there, and in Mexico and the Caribbean. And passengers from these carriers can now access any cities that RAM serves in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe through Casablanca.
Ms. Laklalech is quite bullish on RAM’s future growth: “We will be able to enter new markets in Africa, Asia, and America, and to strengthen our capacity in current long haul routes.” She added, “RAM has interline agreements with 60 leading airlines around the world, special prorate agreements with 40 others, and cost sharing with eight airlines – all of which allow passengers access to a very large network.”
She believes that Casablanca can become the major connections provider between Africa and the rest of the world by diversifying and creating new routes to Africa. Currently, RAM serves 31 destinations in Africa and 18 Moroccan cities.
Africa is big business, representing more than 20 per cent of RAM’s total traffic, and half of customers flying into Casablanca are in transit – a fact not lost on the developers of the Morocco Mall and other destination shopping plazas catering to stopover flyers.
In Europe, plans are to expand traffic between Morocco and the UK by providing additional flights between Gatwick and Heathrow and Casablanca and Marrakech, with on-going connections to 27 destinations in Central and West Africa. Today, Morocco has a fleet of 47 aircraft serving 85 destinations in 48 countries. It is expected that there will be ten 787 Dreamliners in operation by 2017, supporting RAM’s goal of becoming the international gateway to the region.
Jean R. AbiNader is Executive Director of the Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center.