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Yesterday, at a meeting of all the oneworld alliance members in New York, Royal Air Maroc was introduced as the newest full member of the oneworld alliance. Technically the airline is still a oneworld member designate but, short of a major catastrophe or change of heart, Royal Air Maroc will be fully integrated into oneworld by mid-2020.
After full integration is complete Royal Air Maroc will offer the full suite of oneworld flyer services and benefits (reciprocal elite benefits etc…) and members of other oneworld loyalty programs will be able to earn and burn miles as well as earning credits towards elite status on Royal Air Maroc flights.
In the meantime (i.e. as the integration of the airline into oneworld proceeds) nothing changes – there are no immediate new benefits open to oneworld flyers flying with Royal Air Maroc or to Royal Air Maroc flyers booking flights on oneworld airlines.
Who/What Is Royal Air Maroc?
Here’s how oneworld described its latest recruit:
Royal Air Maroc is today the largest unaligned carrier in Africa – with a transformational strategy well underway to develop it quickly into a truly global airline and the continent’s leader in terms of both size and quality.
It carried 7.3 million passengers last year on a fleet of 55 aircraft, with a network that currently connects its Casablanca base with 94 destinations in 49 countries across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North and South America, including oneworld hubs Doha, London Heathrow, Madrid, Moscow Domodedovo, New York JFK and Sao Paulo.
This is what the airline’s route map currently looks like:
Clearly the airline does most of its flying out of Casablanca but, unsurprisingly, it offers services to other cities/towns in Morocco too:
This route map will see 21 new countries and 34 new destinations added to the oneworld map – all of these are in Africa.
Royal Air Maroc has an “ambitious 5-year plan” under which it is expected to expand its fleet significantly and add a further 27 destinations to its network which in turn will add 9 countries and 15 destinations to the oneworld network.
Speaking of the Royal Air Maroc fleet….
It’s short-haul fleet is primarily made up of Boeing 737s (37 aircraft) with a few Embraer 190s and ATR72s thrown in (source)
Royal Air Maroc only appears to have 8 long haul aircraft in its fleet (source) – 3 Boeing 767s and 5 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners – so it’s just as well there’s a planned fleet expansion or there won’t be enough aircraft for all the new routes its promising.
The Royal Air Maroc Dreamliners offer 18 lie-flat seats in the airline’s newest Business Class cabin (apologies for the image but it’s the only one I could find)….
….and 9-across seating in most of the large Economy Class cabin:
The Business Class seats look fine (if uninspired) but it’s the Economy Class cabin I’m a little concerned about.
According to SeatGuru these are the seat dimensions on offer in the Royal Air Maroc Dreamliner:
17″ wide seats are just about as tight as an Economy Class seat gets nowadays and I wouldn’t like to be confined to one of these on a transatlantic flight….and I’d really like to know which rows offer just 30″ of leg room!
The Boeing 767s that the airline also operates come with a very similar Economy Class cabin (i.e tight) and a Business Class cabin that offers a 2-2-2 layout and angle-flat seat.
Ok, let’s get the obvious out of the way first – oneworld had little on no presence in Africa so it makes sense to bring an African airline into the fold.
Now let’s get to the reality of things – how many TFM readers are going to get excited about the majority of Royal Air Maroc’s routes? I doubt very many.
Casablanca is undoubtably a historic and interesting place to visit so having non-stop service there from the East Coast can certainly be considered a bonus….but how many other unique destinations on the Royal Air Maroc route map jump out at you as great places to visit? I can’t see all that many.
It’s possible that the airline will offer some tempting Business Class fares that will make it worthwhile connecting through Casablanca when flying across the Atlantic but, in the absence of great fares, who’s going to choose Royal Air Maroc over Qatar Airways (Nairobi, Doha) or AA/BA/Finnair for just about all the other non-African destinations?
Unless you specifically want/need to fly to western Africa Royal Air Maroc is unlikely to be an airline that springs to mind when you want to get across the Atlantic…at least that’s likely to be the case when you’re paying with cash.
If you’re considering award travel things may be different.
The biggest bonus oneworld flyers may get from Royal Air Maroc’s membership of the alliance is increased award space across the Atlantic and possibly low tax awards too.
Well-priced awards may be a possibility too.
As things stand we don’t know how many AAdvantage Miles/Avios will be needed for Royal Air Maroc flights but we do know the following:
- It costs 88,000 Etihad Miles to fly Business Class roundtrip between the East Coast and Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc.
- It cost 85,000 Royal Air Maroc miles for a roundtrip Business Class fare between the US and Casablanca:
If it were to cost 85,000/88,000 AAdvantage Miles to fly Business Class roundtrip between the East Coast and Morocco that would be a pretty good redemption…especially as its only a short flight from Casablanca to a lot of major European cities.
If the airline was to behave itself and not add ridiculous surcharges to its awards that would make things even rosier….but this is all just speculation.
The truth is that the award charts may look nothing like this when they’re finally published and I’m just typing this as I look for a potential bonus on the horizon.
Unless Royal Air Maroc turns into a Qatar Airways Mk2 (i.e offers very cheap Business Class flights that make earning oneworld status easy) I’m not sure there’s going to be a big clamour for cash fares when the airline is finally integrated into oneworld.
The niche group of travelers who book with cash, like to remain loyal to oneworld and need to get to western Africa may be happy about this but the rest of us will probably only get excited if the airline posts some fantastic Business Class fares that we can use to earn status with another oneworld carrier.
The things that are likely to interest most readers and that we will need to watch out for will be award costs, award availability and the surcharges that are levied on award bookings (if there are any). If we’re very lucky Royal Air Maroc may become the easiest & cheapest way to spend our miles when crossing the Atlantic. If we’re unlucky it will turn out to be another BA 🙂