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Maroc climbing

Posted 2 March 2020 · Add Comment

Abdelhamid Addou, Royal Air Maroc chairman and CEO, wants to accelerate the national airline’s development to turn it into a continental leader. Vincent Chappard reports.

Royal Air Maroc (RAM) is facing fierce competition at domestic, regional and international level. Its chairman and CEO has a simple target – to enhance the airline’s efficiency and competitiveness on the five continents to support Morocco’s economic development and open up the country to the world.
“We will also work to make Casablanca the main hub of the African continent,” said Addou.
At the end of September, Addou unveiled his new strategy to establish a long-term economic model. This will involve doubling RAM’s fleet and strengthening its network to reach 120 routes. The contract between the Moroccan state and RAM is almost finalised.
The airline will, thus, be better equipped to be a global player, sustain its growth and better serve the interests of national tourism.
According to Addou, a “slight profitability” will not enable the national company to develop fully.
Competition is growing at a rapid pace. “Airlines like Ethiopian or Turkish have tripled or even quadrupled the size of their fleet,” explained Addou.
The option of privatisation or partnership is, however, not on the agenda. “It’s still premature. The size of the company does not allow us to bring on board a partner or go for an initial public offering (IPO),” he added.
Digital transformation and innovation are the main pillars of RAM’s development plan. The company is launching a new instant information service via WhatsApp to provide customers with information on their flight and baggage in real time and enable them to print their electronic boarding pass. The chatbot will also help improve customer service and the information process.
Furthermore, the Moroccan Airports Authority (ONDA) has launched a new passport control area at the arrival zone dedicated to passengers holding Moroccan passports. These new measures will help improve passenger flow and reduce waiting time.
RAM has also launched two routes to Boston and Miami, hence strengthening its network to America, which already has four destinations – Montreal, New York, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.
RAM will launch its Casablanca-Beijing route in January to seize new opportunities in this fast-growing market. According to Addou: “This new route will contribute to the development of Morocco by serving the world’s largest tourist provider. It will help further strengthen the trade and economic relations between Morocco and China.”
In August, RAM signed a code sharing agreement with Royal Jordanian. “This cooperation consolidates the links between our two kingdoms and supports the Casablanca-Amman flight launched last April,” underlined Addou.
The airline is well connected to the Middle East and serves Amman, Beirut, Doha, Istanbul, Jeddah and Riyadh.
The big breakthrough will undoubtedly be the integration of RAM within the Oneworld alliance.
“We have set up a project management office with 26 tasks, bringing together 100 employees representing all the professions,” he explained. “The project is progressing according to the set targets and RAM is expected to be formally integrated within Oneworld by mid-2020.”
RAM will be the first African airline to become a full-fledged member of Oneworld. “It will not only be a recognition for Morocco but also of the quality of services offered by the airline, its leadership and its strategic ambition. Access to our tourist destinations will be facilitated and we will be able to better connect our continent to the rest of the world,” said Addou.
RAM remains the leader in the domestic market, despite competition from Air Arabia Morocco.
The Moroccan national airline has a public service strategy and ensures air connectivity within the country, including landlocked regions.
The airline opened a base in Laayoune in June, after signing a partnership agreement with the Council of the Laayoune Sakia Al Hamra Region. It includes connections to Agadir, Dakhla, Guelmim, Marrakesh, Smara and Las Palmas.
“The improvement of air connectivity with our southern provinces will undoubtedly contribute to the economic and social development of our regions by strengthening their economic attractiveness, enhancing their tourism potential and enabling our fellow citizens to travel,” said Addou.
RAM’s network development has, however, been thwarted by the grounding of its B737MAX aircraft – supposed to be the backbone of its fleet.
The company has rented four additional aircraft for more than six months to respect its commitments to customers, especially during summer holiday months. New routes to Amman, Athens and Vienna, as well as additional flights to Brussels and London, are also concerned.
Today, RAM’s fleet includes 37 B737NGs, six ATR-600s, four E190s, two B737MAXs, nine B787s and two B767s. It should have taken delivery of its two additional B737MAXs during the first half of 2019.
“The non-availability of our four B737MAXs has had a major financial impact that is unfortunately increasing as the aircraft continue to be grounded. Leasing under these circumstances generates additional costs and operating expenses,” said the CEO.
According to Addou, RAM is the African operator with the best connectivity to Europe. “We are more dynamic on Europe and America. We must develop this strong positioning,” he added.
There’s also a need to deploy a better network in eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.
Royal Air Maroc has transferred its activities to new Terminal 1 at Casablanca International Airport, which was inaugurated in January.
This terminal is dedicated to RAM and its partner airlines. It is equipped with a new self-service check-in process. Mohammed V Airport becomes the first airport in Africa to offer self-service end-to-end registration.
Addou’s unquenched thirst to fly RAM higher and smarter is why he supports the single African air transport market (SAATM), which he describes as a promising initiative that needs to be encouraged by stakeholders.
“You have to move forward. If you want to generate more traffic, attract more tourists and flows between different countries, it is important to optimise costs and taxes in order to be profitable and competitive,” he said.
Finally, the airline wants to consolidate its cargo business. It has recently renewed its partnership agreement with the Moroccan Association of Exporters (Asmex) to offer preferential tariffs to its members. The aim is to help companies dealing with export to “improve the competitiveness of their products on international markets through optimised logistics offers at each step of the supply chain”.

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