Qatar Air Mulling Royal Air Maroc Stake to Aid West Africa Push

  • Purchase would build on new code-share pact between pair
  • Royal Air Maroc also studying A380 order to replace 747

Qatar Airways said it will evaluate the case for buying a stake in Moroccan national carrier Royal Air Maroc to help extend its reach into the under-served travel markets of West Africa and the Sahara.

The No. 2 Persian Gulf airline has already secured a code-share deal with RAM and would like to bring it into the Oneworld alliance in the "not too distant future," Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said Thursday.

“We’ll evaluate if we can be a partner, a stakeholder, in Royal Air Maroc in the future,” Al Baker said at a press conference in Doha. “Qatar Airways is always open to investing in airlines with strong synergy.”

Al Baker was speaking as RAM commenced a three-times-weekly service between Casablanca and Doha, adding to Qatar Air’s daily timetable on the route, with all 10 flights operated by Boeing Co. 787s under a code-share agreement that permits joint ticket sales. The Gulf airline already owns a 10 percent stake in British Airways parent IAG SA and has said it’s open to further deals.

A380 Interest

RAM’s network offers links to 40 African destinations, with Qatar Air highlighting the Moroccan cities of Agadir and Marrakech together as well as Dakar in Senegal, Accra in Ghana and Nouakchott in Mauritania as among attractive connections. Al Baker said he’d also like to start flights from Doha to Marrakech through the code-share with RAM.

Royal Air Maroc CEO Driss Benhima said separately in an interview at the Doha event that he’s studying an Airbus Group SE A380 purchase to replace Boeing Co.’s 747. The superjumbo would be deployed on trips including the Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

RAM aims to expand its total fleet to 105 planes by 2029 from 53 currently, and will issue a tender for narrow-body jets that could include the Airbus A320neo and A321 and Boeing 737 Max, as well as some freighters, by end of 2015, Benhima added.

Qatar Air will take delivery of 11 planes in the next eight weeks and “hopefully” get two A320neos, for which it’s the first customer, by the year’s end, if the model’s new engines have completed certification, Al Baker said.

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