After more than a year of widebody freighter operations, which began in June 2018 with a 767-300BCF, Casablanca-based Royal Air Maroc (RAM) is preparing to expand its freighter network and fleet.
Over the next few years the carrier plans to add freighters, Salim Quouninich, VP Cargo, Royal Air Maroc, told Cargo Facts. Although a decision has yet to be made regarding the airframe type or types, a case can be made to add a mix of narrowbody and 767 freighters, said Quouninich.
For RAM, the addition of a 767-300BCF represented a departure from freighter operations previously centered around a 737-300BDSF. Although suitable for regional operations, the 737-300F was unable to accommodate many oversize and charter shipments, which in 2017 prompted RAM to ink a deal with Boeing for the conversion of a 767-300 in its passenger fleet to freighter configuration. The 737-300BDSF was removed from service in May 2018, shortly after the redelivery of a 22-position, 45-tonne-capacity 767-300BCF. According to RAM’s current winter freighter schedule, the 767-300F serves eight destinations via Casablanca (CMN), including Paris (CDG), Brussels (BRU), Frankfurt (FRA), Abidjan (ABJ), Niamey (NIM), Lagos (LOS), Bamako (BKO) and Douala (DLA).
RAM’s freighter flight network is designed to optimize interlining capabilities with the carrier’s widebody passenger fleet – to feed the bellies with cargo coming off of the freighter. As RAM adds international widebody flights, opportunities to connect Moroccan and regional exports to the world grows. “By combining our freighter operations to those of our widebody aircraft, we establish freight corridors connecting the Americas, Europe and the Middle East to West Africa,” said Quouninich. RAM recently launched flights to Miami (MIA) and Boston (BOS) utilizing 787s.
Cross-border e-commerce represents another area of “strong growth potential” as RAM sees opportunities to deliver online purchases exported from Europe and the United States to Africa. To this end, RAM is testing an express service that connects FRA and CMN. “If successful, this service will be extended to our entire network.” Quouninich is optimistic that developing some of these new market opportunities could help balance loads moving between Africa and Europe.
Next year, the carrier plans to commence flights to Asia, with service to Beijing set to launch early next year. As RAM’s passenger network served by widebody aircraft grows, “It will also lead to the acquisition of additional freighters,” said Quouninich. Although RAM could lease-in freighters as it has done in the past, we note the carrier also operates passenger aircraft that could be suitable for use as conversion feedstock. The two 767-300ERs it currently operates in passenger configuration are approaching 18 years in age. Two of its 737-800s are also 20+ years in age, as are two of its 737-700s.