What Royal Air Maroc Joining Oneworld Means for American Airlines Flyers

Dec 11, 2018

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In case you missed it, Moroccan airline Royal Air Maroc is joining Oneworld as a full member in mid-2020. This will be the first full-member airline added to Oneworld since 2012, and Oneworld’s first full-member African airline. And, for flyers looking to travel to or from Africa, this is a big deal.

Easier Connections to Africa

Currently, American Airlines doesn’t have any flights to Africa, and Oneworld’s Africa route network is limited to what is provided from British Airways, Finnair, Iberia and Qatar. By adding Royal Air Maroc’s comparatively small network of 94 destinations to the Oneworld network, this adds 34 new destinations and 21 countries to the Oneworld map — increasing the alliance’s network to 1,069 airports in 178 countries and territories.

Screengrab from Royal Air Maroc's site.
Royal Air Maroc network. Image courtesy of the airline.

These numbers are just based on the network RAM is currently operating. However, according to the press release about it joining the alliance, American Airlines references “Royal Air Maroc’s ambitious five-year strategy,” which will “add another 15 destinations and nine countries to the alliance network.”

That sounds great, but there’s work to be done to open this route network to American Airlines flyers in the US. Since AA doesn’t have any flights to Africa, there would be only two Oneworld flights between North America and Africa: Royal Air Maroc’s flights between Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) and New York Kennedy (JFK) and Washington, DC (IAD). And AA has a small presence in both of these airports.

Potential New AA Flight to Morocco

To really achieve easier connections to Africa, American Airlines is going to need to fly from at least one of its hubs to Morocco. The world’s largest airline isn’t ready to share anything at this point, but there are rumors from inside sources that American Airlines is already working on adding a flight from the US to Morocco. The flight would likely depart from one (or more) of American Airlines’ transatlantic hubs: Philadelphia (PHL) or Miami (MIA) — but flights from Charlotte (CLT) or Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) wouldn’t be out of the question.

The most logical destination for the flight would be Mohammed V International Airport (CMN). This airport isn’t very convenient to Casablanca, as it’s located about a 40-minute drive outside the city. Instead, this flight would be about connecting passengers from American Airlines’ network to RAM’s network of 94 destinations across 49 countries to give AA passengers a reasonable itinerary to Africa.

Redeeming Miles

Under the current American Airlines AAdvantage program, flights on Royal Air Maroc between the continental US and Africa — including domestic connections in the US and onward connections anywhere in Africa — would cost:

  • 40,000 miles one-way in economy
  • 75,000 miles one-way in business

However, the current AA partner award chart is designed for travelers going through London on British Airways or Doha on Qatar Airways — both of which are much longer flight routings than between the US and Morocco. Also, flights between the US and Europe cost just 30,000 miles one-way in economy or 57,500 one-way in business class. That includes award flights to/through Madrid, which is closer to RAM’s hub in Casablanca (539 miles) than Paris (660 miles).

That means it’s possible that AAdvantage tweaks the US-Africa award chart with the addition of Royal Air Maroc. This could be done by breaking Africa into two (or more) regions, each with a different mileage cost. Or, perhaps AAdvantage will include parts of Northern Africa in the Europe region as some other mileage programs do.

It’ll also be interesting to see how AAdvantage will allow award connections. AA has a number of restrictions about when award travelers can transit one region on their way to another region. For example, you can transit the Middle East on the way to Africa but not on the way to Europe. Hopefully Qatar will still be in the Oneworld alliance to give easier and more comfortable connections in the Middle East. But, perhaps AAdvantage will also allow flyers to transit Casablanca on the way to the Middle East. If so, there could be some rate arbitrage since Africa currently costs 75,000 miles one-way in business class, but the Middle East costs slightly less (70,000 miles) in business class.

Earning Miles

American Airlines hasn’t yet shared the earning chart for its growing partnership with China Southern, which is adding reciprocal mileage earning in early 2019. So, we are likely a ways off from learning the earning chart for Royal Air Maroc’s addition in mid-2020. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate a bit.

American Airlines AAdvantage unofficially has three groups of partners: joint-business partners, other Oneworld partners and non-Oneworld partners. Earnings are the best on the joint-business partners — as those are the partners AA is financially incentivized for you to fly. Royal Air Maroc would fall under the “other Oneworld partners,” meaning that earnings likely won’t be quite as good.

Flying Economy: It’s to be seen if Royal Air Maroc will be treated like LATAM, Qantas and Qatar where all fare classes earn some sort of award miles, Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD). Or, perhaps RAM fall in the class of Oneworld partners where AAdvantage doesn’t give travelers any credit for flying on most economy classes — like Cathay PacificMalaysia and Royal Jordanian.

Flying Business Class: Most Oneworld partners earn at least 100% of flight miles as award miles, 1.5x EQM and 20%-30% of flight miles as EQD. This will likely be the case with Royal Air Maroc, but we will have to see exactly how generous AAdvantage is with the earnings once the chart is eventually released.

Bottom Line

There’s still a lot to be determined about how Royal Air Maroc joining Oneworld is going affect American Airlines flyers. The addition certainly expands Oneworld’s footprint in Africa. However, without the addition of more US-Morocco flights, this isn’t going to help American Airlines flyers much, which is why it seems very likely that AA would need to add at least one of these flights.

Featured image by Patrick Becker/ullstein bild via Getty Images

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