There is no doubt that there is a tough game of bluff being played between Morocco and Ryanair. However, as The View from Fez suggested (see story here) , the ambit claims are simply opening moves in a longer tussle. Ryanair's cuts, of 34 weekly services from October, represent about 15% of its seats – less dramatic than it would like the public and ONDA (the Moroccan Office National Des Aéroports) to believe – and still leaving it #2 after Royal Air Maroc. Ryanair disputes the imposition of a new monopoly handling company claiming it will mean “a massive increase in charges.” The airline has had a combative relationship with many European airport authorities in recent years and has not hesitated to reduce services when faced with higher costs.
There is no doubt that, for a number of reasons, airline growth in Morocco has stalled and that now is probably the wrong time for ONDA to be trying to stare-down Ryanair.
After a phenomenal period of growth that saw passenger numbers Morroccan airports double from 7.7 million in 2004 to 15.4 million in 2010, last year saw passenger traffic grew just 2%. The rapid growth can be almost completely explained by Morocco’s decision to sign an ‘open-skies’ agreement with the EU in December 2005, opening the way for Europe’s route hungry low-cost carriers to explore a new, tourist-friendly region only just a little bit further away than the south Spain resorts.
Closer analysis of the figures for 2012 provided by ONDA shows that the French market is down only 4%, but that demand from the rest of Europe has dropped 12%. Curiously the domestic Moroccan market itself is down just under 10%.
Passenger numbers at the country’s three biggest airports (Casablanca, Marrakech and Agadir) remained almost unchanged in 2011 with growth coming from Nador (+29%), Tangier (+11%) and Oujda (+10%). As a result Nador has leapfrogged Oujda to be the country’s sixth busiest airport. Casablanca handled 7.3 million passengers in 2011.
Ryanair Still #2 in Morocco
Morocco’s national carrier Royal Air Maroc still accounts for almost half of all scheduled seat capacity at the country’s airports, although its share has fallen slightly compared with last summer. Second-ranked Ryanair recently announced that it plans to axe 34 weekly services from 1 October, representing around 15% of its Moroccan summer seat capacity, including all flights at Oujda. However, this will still leave it as the second biggest carrier in the Moroccan market.
A significant development has been the decision by local TUI subsidiary, jet4you, to become part of Belgian TUI subsidiary Jetairfly. This explains the big jump in Jetairfly’s market share since last summer.
The Moroccan low-cost airline Jet4you, was started in 2005, but "since its inception, the Moroccan airline ran at an annual loss," says Hans Vanhaelemeesch, a spokesman for Jetairfly.
Due to its small size Jet4you was hit hard by the economic crisis. This strategic merger will involve staff, flights, and planes as well as costing 39 Moroccan jobs with another 259 at risk. Jetairfly carried 2.2 million travellers in 2011. In 2012, its fleet will comprise 20 aircraft, mostly new generation Boeing 737s. The close collaboration between the two companies will enhance their position as well as create an opportunity to strive for further growth.
Air France has almost doubled its market share thanks to the launch of services to Casablanca and Marrakech from its new regional bases in Marseille and Toulouse. Another carrier to significantly increase its market share in Morocco since last year is British Airways, which has taken over bmi’s Agadir, Casablanca and Marrakech services, although the Marrakech service does not operate in winter.
Emirates is now ranked inside the top 12 and has gained market share by replacing its daily A340-500 service with the larger 777-300ER. Qatar Airways and Etihad also serve Casablanca from their hubs in the Middle East.
New routes this summer from five Moroccan airports
Compared with last summer there have been rather fewer new airline services starting this summer but Air France, germanwings (which has not previously served Morocco), and Ryanair, have each launched three new services.
|Airport||Destination (Airline, start date, weekly frequency)|
|Casablanca||Cologne/Bonn (germanwings, 6 June, 1)|
Malaga (Hellitt Lineas Aereas, 4 May, 4)
Toulouse (Air France, 2 April, 3)
|Marrakech||Marseille (Air France, 25 March, 3)|
Toulouse (Air France, 1 April, 2)
|Nador||Cologne/Bonn (germanwings, 30 March, 1-2)|
Frankfurt Hahn (Ryanair, 27 March, 2)
Girona (Ryanair, 25 March, 2)
|Oujda||Madrid (Air Europa, 24 July, 1)|
Marseille (Ryanair, 27 March, 2)
|Tangier||Cologne/Bonn (germanwings, 7 June, 1)|