Qatar Airways yesterday signed a joint venture agreement with Morocco’s flagship airline, Royal Air Maroc, as it builds connections to western and central Africa.
“We will operate frequency into Morocco and they will operate frequency to Doha. This will be a joint business partnership between us and them,” Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, said at a press conference in Dubai.
“We will codeshare beyond points into Africa. Royal Maroc is a high class carrier that has a large network in Africa … this will give us a huge access into Africa, especially into western and central Africa,” Mr Al Baker added.
Qatar Airways is not the first Arabian Gulf carrier to expand its routes in Africa. With many businesses using Gulf cities as a gateway into Africa, Gulf airlines are expanding their routes into the continent to meet demand.
Last summer, Emirates signed an agreement with Nigeria’s Arik Air that connects Dubai to Nigeria and other West African countries. And the budget carrier flydubai has added routes in East Africa to complement the network of Emirates (both airlines are ultimately owned by the Dubai government).
State-owned Royal Maroc has been racking up financial losses in recent years, as it suffered from tough competition, low sales and higher fuel prices. But lately it has managed to improve its performance.
After losing nearly 1 billion Moroccan dirhams (Dh374 million) in fiscal 2010 and 2011 combined, the carrier cut costs and recorded an operating profit of 718m dirhams in 2012 and 789m in 2013, according to figures from Capa, the Centre for Aviation.
“Royal Air Maroc has done a huge turnaround and that’s why we are partnering with Royal Air Maroc. We will only partner with airlines that are of a standard that is acceptable to Qatar Airways,” said Mr Al Baker.
Separately, Qatar Airways said that it would launch 18 daily shuttle flights between Doha and Dubai. The airline will also launch daily flights to Ras Al Khaimah from October.
“This flight will be called the Dubai shuttle. This is an answer to the capacity dumping by low- cost carriers in this segment into Doha. It will be a very convenient travel programme between Dubai-Doha and beyond,” said Mr Al Baker.
Out of the 18 flights, 14 will operate from Dubai International Airport and four will operate from Al Maktoum International Airport, said Qatar Airways.
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