Morocco: The thousand and one miseries of the airport and air transport ecosystem

Par ediallo - 3 May, 2021 - 06:55

Airlines around the world continue to bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in all its forms, whether in terms of jobs or, more globally, operations.

In the Kingdom, after 14 months of crisis, nothing new under the sad sun of the Moroccan air transport sector, still deprived of destinations, passengers and planes.

All ecosystems, related to the sky, airport carried by the ONDA, tourism (ONMT and department of supervision), air transport (RAM, Air Arabia ...) of the aviation industry (various joint ventures Nouaceur).

Are able to cry haro on Lady Covid and alert on the catastrophic economic situation, nothing will change as to a real need and, in the immediate future, a large-scale support, otherwise ... In short, to boost the recovery, it will be essential that the air transport sector becomes viable again, which for the time being, is not the case with regard to the situation in which it wades.

While the pandemic is spreading quietly around the world and the number of travelers remains at its lowest, carriers and airports are still in difficulty and the cries of alarm are succeeding one another in the sector announcing, either layoffs, or a reduction in traffic, or an unexpected rescue, or a key under the mat...Globally, in terms of passenger demand, it is a return to 1998 levels, a 66% drop from pre-crisis levels.

"Before the crisis," said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) a month ago, "we had nearly 30,000 unique international routes between airports. Now we have about 12,000.

And the density of those connections has become much thinner. Before the crisis, the average route was served by about 43 flights a month. Now it's about 20 flights a month, not even every day.

The massive loss of connectivity has depressed economies around the world, essentially shutting down international tourism, conventions, exhibitions and the like as well as flights. That's how close the dregs are to being swallowed.

It's that Covid-19 continues to be a global tragedy. And what has happened in aviation over the past 14 months has been nothing short of catastrophic. Yet it is not for lack of financial support by governments to the world's airlines (rather the national one).

They have provided vital liquidity and other relief measures (direct cash injections, tax breaks, loan guarantees...) in an attempt to preserve the sector, which with rare exceptions (internally in China or in the US...) has still not recovered. In total, as of last March, worldwide support was valued at more than US$225 billion.

The Royal Air Maroc (RAM), which has lost some of its feathers, is one of the beneficiaries of this support. The provision of funds by the Moroccan government, which did not seem to really understand the economic and social treatment of the air transport crisis, allows it to survive not without danger.

In return for a contribution or support, depending on the bank, of 6 billion dirhams (in two tranches of 2.5 billion dirhams and 3.5 billion dirhams), the management of RAM is committed to a series of often painful actions to make changes in its management or road holding.

Also, he agreed to a drastic austerity action including the sale of several of its aircraft, a voluntary departure and more dramatically the economic dismissal of which the flight crew has paid a heavy price. This plan will nevertheless have saved more than one billion dirhams in expenses by 2020.

But is it enough to regain health knowing that at the level of its destinations, our national company has been weighed down by many of its services such as those of the Old Continent, which was once a daily bread and had to be separated by force of circumstances and Dame Covid.

No more stopover in Europe is now served. The national carrier is seen only in a few rare stops in Africa (Dakar, Abidjan, Nouakchott ...), Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, the United States in New York, Canada in Montreal and domestic flights where many airports have seen their traffic decline as a result, such as Marrakech, Agadir or Tangier.

With 120,032 passengers welcomed in March 2021, domestic air traffic has recorded a regression of about -52.77% compared to March 2019 and -1.74% compared to March 2020.

Moreover, the airport ecosystem, without shouting so much or really, is waiting for some gestures or concrete actions from the Executive that could lessen its suffering. And for good reason! All the lights are red if we rely on the figures.

Our airports have recorded until March 2021, a volume of commercial passenger traffic of 400,863 passengers against 941,790 passengers in March 2020 and 2,066,199 passengers in March 2019, a decline of about -57.44% and -80.60% respectively.

The Mohammed V airport, a reference in the field and which accounts for almost half of global passenger traffic, has experienced in the same month, a decline of -42.62% compared to March 2020 and -75.89% compared to the same period of 2019, or 192,610 passengers against 798,972 passengers received in March 2019 and 335,675 passengers received in March 2020.

Mohamed Jaouad EL KANABI