In an interview with L'Économiste, the CEO of Royal Air Maroc (RAM), Abdelhamid Addou, laid out his plans to absorb the shock to his company as demands for international flights plummet due to concerns of coronavirus spreading further via aircraft. Responding to a 30 percent drop in demand for flights between March and May, RAM has opted to ground close to a third of its fleet. On March 10, RAM cancelled five flights to Italy, which recently quarantined the entire province of Lombardy, home to more than 10 million people, in response to a mass coronavirus outbreak. On January 31, RAM had to suspend its Casablanca–Beijing route just two weeks after its launch. There has also been a sharp drop in demand for flights to Saudi Arabia since the country suspended travel to its holy sites of Mecca and Medina.
These developments come after a difficult 2019 for RAM as a result of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft being grounded after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. RAM had recently bought four of these aircraft.
Why It Matters
Morocco’s economy relies heavily on tourism revenue, and international transit brings business travelers, tourists, and goods from both Europe and sub-Saharan Africa to the country. With one of Morocco’s largest airlines having to suspend a significant portion of its business operations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the negative economic impact on the company—and on other African airlines—is likely to outlast the epidemiologic impact.