Abdelhamid Addou, Royal Air Maroc: “We will connect many other cities with Frankfurt and Düsseldorf”

In an interview, Royal Air Maroc boss Abdelhamid Addou talks about the challenges of the pandemic, the problems of the African market, the new German destinations and much more.

With nearly 50 active aircraft, Royal Air Maroc is Africa’s third largest airline. Their network consists of destinations in Europe and West Africa. Some destinations are also served in North America. The airline has specialized in connecting flights to African countries that would otherwise be served by only a few airlines.

In an interview, Abdelhamid Addou, head of Royal Air Maroc since 2016, talks to aeroTELEGRAPH about the effects of the pandemic, network expansion, challenges in Africa and more.

Which markets were the strongest and weakest for you during the pandemic?
Abdelhamid Addou: I think the market that is recovering the fastest is the European one. Parts of the African market are also recovering. The Asian market is much more complicated. As you know, there are countries with a lot of restrictions there, so it is difficult for us to fly there. The long-haul market is also more difficult to win back. It is easier for passengers to spend two or three hours wearing the mask, but seven to eight hours is not comfortable for everyone. But we are very confident. I’m sure things will return to normal over the course of this summer.

How much did the pandemic cost you?
The pandemic has slowed our development. We had a very high growth rate and it stopped overnight. Now we have to catch up. I think we will return to normal in the next two or three years.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the pandemic?
The biggest was the staff situation. Unfortunately we had to release a certain number of employees because there was no work and we had to sell seven planes from our fleet. That was the toughest phase I had to go through during this pandemic.

The share between Europe and Africa is around 80%. On African routes.

Royal Air Maroc became the first African member to join the Oneworld alliance about two years ago. In the midst of the pandemic. What brought you to oneworld membership in the first two years?
Oneworld offers a network of routes with more than 1000 routes. This means a lot more options for all of our customers and a lot more efficiency. We bring Africa to the Oneworld global network. So it’s really a win-win situation.

How many transfer passengers do you transport between European and African destinations? What is the percentage of transfer passengers?
The share between Europe and Africa is around 80%. On African routes. But we also have other much more tourism-oriented routes in Morocco. Relocations to Africa make up one third of our global network.

From Germany, Royal Air Maroc currently flies only from Frankfurt to Casablanca and from Düsseldorf to Nador. Berlin and Munich have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic. In Switzerland there is a flight from Geneva to Casablanca. Are there any new goals you are planning for your network?
Yes, we are returning to our 2019 network. For France, we will open many more connections between cities outside Casablanca and cities outside Paris. Also in Germany. We will connect many other cities such as Nador and Oujda with Frankfurt and Düsseldorf. We also want to reopen Munich and Berlin. These are the new connections to be added this summer.

You connect West Africa not only with Europe but also with North America, are you planning to expand your business to North America?
We will reopen in Miami on April 15 and hopefully in Boston next year. And we have other plans. We hope that business returns to normal so that we can open up new routes.

The African market is about deregulation, open skies, the cost of airport taxes, the cost of fuel.

What are your advantages over Ethiopian Airlines, one of the main competitors in the African market?
Ethiopian is a great company, a great airline that is much stronger in the East, even in Asia where it has a great history. It covers much more East Africa and South Africa and connects Asia while we connect much more Central Africa, West Africa and North Africa to Europe and America. For example, we are the largest African airline connecting Africa with Europe. We really complement each other.

What are the biggest challenges and problems of the African aviation market?
I think there are two big challenges: sustainability and digitization. We need to develop new solutions very quickly when it comes to sustainability, such as sustainable jet fuel and hydrogen, and this can only be done with a strong will and a strong and dynamic approach from manufacturers. We need a new direction in future engine types. Digitization is also important. We need to streamline processes for all customers to make the journey and customer experience much more dynamic and efficient.

Are sustainability and digitization particularly difficult to achieve in Africa?
They are difficult to reach anywhere in the world. If no one builds new hydrogen-powered aircraft, the problem will not be in Africa, it will be around the world. Sustainable fuels are not available everywhere in the world, the problem exists in Africa but also elsewhere.

What are the specific challenges of aviation in Africa?
The African market is about deregulation, open skies, the cost of airport taxes, the cost of fuel. These are some of the key challenges to reduce costs in order to expand the market and facilitate travel to Africa at low prices.

We want to launch a tender next year.

Currently, Royal Air Maroc’s fleet of Boeing 737s consists of 37 older 737 NGs, of which 27 are active. There are also two new Boeing 737 Max 8s in the fleet, one of which is parked. How do you plan to replace the old 737s?
It is still a fairly young fleet. He’s nine to ten on average, so we still have some time left. But we are already preparing for new ones. We want to launch a tender next year.

They already have two Boeing 737 Max in their fleet. Royal Air Maroc had actually ordered two more 737 Maxs, but these were canceled. Want 737 Max again?
I don’t know, it will be decided by the announcement. The market is open.

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