Rumours that Ryanair intends to permanently end operations in Morocco as of May seem to be false. At least for now. The media outlet Maghrib Intelligence cited unnamed sources indicating that Ryanair is considering leaving the Moroccan market.
However, on 20 January, the Irish low-cost carrier announced its summer 2022 timetable from Dublin International Airport, including Marrakech as a destination and even a new service to Agadir. The airline was requested for comment on 21 January, yet, according to ch-aviation it was “not immediately available” to provide further details.
1. Suspension of international flights
The rumour coincides with the company’s financial backdrop, expecting a net loss of €250 million and leading Ryanair to cut flights in many markets. On top of that, relations between Ryanair’s top management and the Moroccan authorities have been very tense since practically the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020.
In mid-December, the Irish carrier suspended its flights to Morocco until 1 February as a reaction to the Moroccan authorities’ decision to close its skies to all international flights until the end of January.
The Irish airline blames Morocco for the successive closures of airspace preventing Ryanair from honouring its commitments to the tens of thousands of passengers using its lines. The authorities in Rabat argue that such measures were necessary to prevent the spread of the Omicron wave.
2. Heavy losses
Ryanair claims that at the end of November 2021, flight cancellations decided by Morocco had an impact on 160,000 of its customers and that an additional 230,000 passengers are facing disruptions to their travel plans for the country.
“There’s a lack of clarity and communication from the Moroccan authorities on what to expect beyond their initial decision to ban travel on December 13,” accused the leaders of the low-cost company saying they deplore heavy losses.
3. Surviving Omicron
In November, the Irish carrier announced it would open a new base in Agadir and station two aircraft there, signifying its “commitment to Morocco” and “its ability to rebuild the Moroccan tourism industry”, according to ch-aviation.
The unpredictability with the Moroccan market led Ryanair to accuse the Portuguese Ministry of Infrastructure and the country’s civil aviation authority of blocking the airline from opening three new routes from Lisbon to Morocco. The decision, which attempted to curb the rise of the Omicron variant, resulted in the cancellation of several flights from 31 October 2021.
We are not cancelling any flights…I don’t see that [Omicron] as a justifiable reason to prevent people who are vaccinated or have negative PCRs from travelling.Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s Group Chief Executive
Recently, the World Health Organisation said banning international flights is not an effective measure to reduce the spread of Omicron, urging governments to lift restrictions.