On Friday, Morocco’s National Office of Airports (ONDA) decided to extend a ban on international flights until the end of January in an attempt to stop the spread of the Omicron variant. The initial measure in place from late November until 31 December allowed Moroccan citizens abroad to come home. With the new measure, the only passenger movements allowed are repatriation flights for foreign citizens in Morocco. However, this type of flights are authorised on a case-by-case basis by the government. Rabat has also banned festivals and cultural gatherings since the beginning of December. Additionally, all New Year’s Eve celebrations have been cancelled and a night-time curfew has been imposed again.
1. Tickets change and refunds
Following the new rules communicated by the Moroccan Civil Aviation Authority, Royal Air Maroc cancelled all international flights from and to Morocco from 1 January 2022 at 00:00 till 31 January 2022 at 23:59. Scheduled exceptional flights between 24 December and 31 December 2021 will still be operated. To support its customers, Royal Air Maroc authorises the change or refund of international travel tickets for any ticket with a travel date from 1 January 2022 to 31 January 2022. More specifically, the airline allows its customers affected by the flight cancellations to choose between one of the following options:
- A free ticket change for a new date during the 15 days following the resumption of operations.
- A change with the application of fare difference, for a new travel date from the 16th day after the resumption of operation to 31 October 2022.
- A refund by a nominative non-transferable travel voucher valid for 12 months from its issuance date.
2. A bankrupt tourism sector
The new travel restrictions represent a serious threat for the country’s tourism industry, which is a vital sector of the economy. Because of the highly dependence of Morocco on tourism, people working in this sector warn that Morocco is going bankrupt. Even before the new travel rules, the sector was already on its knees after two lost seasons because of the pandemic. According to Morocco’s economy ministry, the country welcomed around two million tourists during summer 2021, compared to only 165,000 during summer 2020. However, the progresses made during the summer season were ruined when the new Omicron variant started spreading, with the WHO labelling it as more transmissible and vaccine-resistant.