Sunday, March 01, 2015

Morocco's Airports Get Wakeup Call

For frequent travellers to Morocco it will come as no surprise that Casablanca Airport is rated as the 4th worst airport in the world. Marrakech is the 9th worst. But with work underway in Casablanca and plans for Marrakech - things may change
Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca

The annual Edreams website ranking of international airports as recently been released and again this year it is not good news for Morocco. The rankings are hardly scientific, being based on the notes, opinions and comments of 18,000 users.

Casablanca's Mohammed V International Airport gets the thumbs down because of baggage handling and the extremely slow customs and passport control management.

Casablanca has been in 4th spot before, but the surprise this year was the inclusion of Marrakech in the top ten worst list. However, things may change, albeit slowly. A new airport is planned for Marrakech.  A meeting, held mid 2014 and chaired by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Logistics, Aziz Rebbah,  estimated the cost of the project to be around 4.3 billion dirhams. The future airport is expected to have the capacity to handle an annual total of 10 million passengers.

The international airport of Marrakech Menara has set a record in 2014 with over 4 million travellers, said a statement of the national airport office (ONDA).

The first problem for Marrakech is the location of the new airport. At present the airport is located in an area hemmed in by the ever expanding urbanisation. It is thought that expansion and renovation of the present site would be feasible and might increase capacity to 9 million passengers  However, it is projected that annual volume of traffic is expected to reach 14.37 million passengers by 2030.

Potential locations for the new airport must be within 30 kilometres of the city. Front runner is considered to the municipality of Sidi Bouatmane.

Casablanca is an important entry point for visitors to Morocco and the problems it experiences have been noted by Najib Boulif, the Minister of Transport, who pointed to an increase in passengers and baggage on flights from 2012 to 2014. He also noted the rate of lost luggage had risen from 10.5% to 12.5%.

The Minister is determined to address the issues, saying that the present situation "Gives a negative image to tourists in Morocco." He promised increased CCTV coverage of baggage handling and improved staff training,

The work of improving the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca suffered from four ears of delays, but has begun again in order to increase the capacity of terminals 1 and 2

The extension of Terminal 1 is intended to triple the airport capacity from 7 to 23 million passengers. It is expected to be completed by September 2016.

The refurbished, Terminal 2 will be exclusively for Royal Air Morocco flights. The work will take thirty months and completed in July 2017.  "Obviously the site work is designed so as not to discomfort passengers," says Zubair Ould El Maalem, Communications Officer from the National Airports Office (Onda).

The new Fez-Sais airport should look like this

Meanwhile, work is continuing in Fez on the new terminal with an annual capacity of 2.5 million additional passengers. According to Director General of the National Airports Authority, Mr. Abdelhanine Benallou, the new terminal (26,000 m2),will cost 620 million dirhams, and will the bring-the total annual capacity of Fez-Sais airport to three million passengers,

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