It appears that Ryanair and the Moroccan National Airport Authority (ONDA) may have kissed and made up. According to stories circulating in the media, Ryanair may be about to announce the establishment of its first bases in Africa. More surprising is that the bases being touted are Fez and Marrakech
The online site Anna-aero is running with the story, saying that "Ryanair will open two new bases in Morocco, less than six months after a spectacular public row with the state airports company, ONDA, in which it declared: “Ryanair cannot accept cost increases as it seeks to deliver more growth to Morocco; ONDA has now lost sight of the key to the success of our partnership.” Clearly relations have thawed considerably, to the extent that aircraft will now be based in the country, probably from April this year."
If true the two new bases (numbers 56 and 57 for Ryanair) represent the first time any European low-cost carrier has made the decision to base aircraft outside of its home continent.
It is possible that Ryanair may decide to go with only one new base, in which case it will probably be Marrakech where it is the third largest carrier, trailing slightly behind easyJet and national carrier Royal Air Maroc in terms of both weekly frequencies and seats.
The case for Fez is more complex. Anna-aero points out that "the situation at Fez-Saïss Airport is very different. It is seven times smaller than Marrakech, and Ryanair is already the #1 airline in terms of weekly seats and flights – it only has five airlines serving the city. Route opportunities that Ryanair may well look to exploit could include re-starting London Stansted flights again (which were canned during the spat over charges last October with ONDA), Madrid (currently not served at the airport), more frequencies to France (Paris, Marseille and Montpellier are currently operated across all serving airlines) as well as Scandinavia."
Time will tell, and we will keep you posted!