For the first time in over half-a-decade, the oneworld alliance has announced that the flag carrier and national airline of Morocco, Royal Air Maroc will become the newest member of the oneworld alliance, joining as a full member by mid-2020.
With Royal Air Maroc having oneworld membership, the alliance gain its first African member, and will, therefore, have a member airline from every inhabited continent. Elsewhere in Africa, Star Alliance have benefitted from having African ‘heavyweight’ Ethiopian Airlines, who have a vast network across the continent, and Skyteam benefit similarly with Kenya Airways.
oneworld has not introduced a new member to the airline in over six years, hence why today’s announcement of Royal Air Maroc joining as a full-member is significant. The alliance was launched in 1999 by founding members American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. The alliance has since grown with Finnair and Iberia joining in 1999, LAN (now LATAM) in 2000, Japan Airlines and Royal Jordanian in 2007, S7 Airlines in 2010, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways in 2013, and Sri Lankan Airlines in 2014.
Royal Air Maroc has more service to/from/within North, Central, and West Africa than any other African carrier for international flights —and with oneworld membership, passengers from 13 other oneworld airlines will be able to travel freely onto and across Royal Air Maroc’s network, on one ticket, with perks such as the ability to send luggage straight through on, for example a ticket from Hong Kong to London (operated by Cathay Pacific) to Casablanca (operated by Royal Air Maroc).
At the beginning of this year, Royal Air Maroc CEO Abdelhamid Addou outlined how the airline was working on a new strategy, with plans to double fleet capacity, develop Casablanca as a hub for Africa with connections to the Americas and Europe, as well as to develop and increase long-haul operations, improving service quality (which, based on recent reviews, remains an area with some work to do) and expand infrastructure.
Royal Air Maroc has maintained formal partnerships with some oneworld alliance members for quite some time, having already established a joint venture with oneworld member Qatar Airways, which meant Qatar Airways already full access to Royal Air Maroc’s network from Morocco, which has particular strength in North and West Africa, regions not well-served by Qatar Airways.
Royal Air Maroc is a state-owned airline, and given Morocco is a member of the Arab League, relations between Morocco and the Gulf Countries are relatively strong.
However, last year’s initiation of a Saudi-led blockade on the State of Qatar caused great unease for the Moroccan government. Morocco neither wanted to be involved in this conflict nor lose favour with any of the parties. A few days into the blockade, the King of Morocco decided to send several aircraft stocked with food to Doha (before Qatar secured regular imports from elsewhere, some days later). The airline has benefited from Morocco’s neutrality, as the country has continued to maintain his relationship with the Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and Egyptians — and continues to partner with both Qatar Airways for passenger traffic and UAE’s Etihad Airways for a joint development of their cargo activities.
In addition to its ties to the Gulf, Royal Air Maroc has existing ties with Iberia, and passengers are able to redeem Avios (Iberia’s air mile currency) on flights.
The news of Royal Air Maroc’s new membership may displease Air France (a Skyteam member), as France remains Royal Air Maroc’s single largest network by far, accounting for over a third of all international seats. With oneworld traffic, Royal Air Maroc will be carrying more oneworld passengers to key Skyteam territories.
The airline remains government-owned, and while it has been exposed to competition — unlike other African nations, it realised having other airlines fly to Morocco was doing just as much to benefit the country, as it was to hurt the airline (like all competition does). Instead of relying on protectionism, and calling on its government to block new entrants (as is so common in Africa), Royal Air Maroc restructured to focus on growth and efficiency.
The airline operates a Boeing 787 Dreamliners on its long-haul routes and has an aircraft order for the Boeing 737 MAX. Its current 737s are quite tired, the airline has hinted at refurbishment, given the poor appearance of some of the fleet.
While Royal Air Maroc will make a relatively smaller addition to the oneworld alliance, it will have much to gain with the addition of 13 full-member siblings. For passengers, especially those travelling through North and West Africa, Royal Air Maroc’s new membership is significant.
The airline has a strong presence in Western African markets but is also strengthening its ties to North and South America, with nonstop flights to Miami set to commence soon, and existing flights operating already to the Sao Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro.
Ultimately, alliance membership makes the air travel process much easier, especially when a connecting flight is involved, or on a multi-city trip.
Are you pleased to see Royal Air Maroc join the oneworld alliance?