Since the beginning of the year, the business passengers of the national airline Royal Air Maroc have had the unpleasant surprise to note that they no longer had access to the “Business” fairs of several airports in the kingdom, including that of Rabat but also Agadir, Fez, Agadir, Laayoune, or Dakhla in the south of the Kingdom, managed by the multinational National Aviation Services (NAS). The latter, which obtained the concession in 2016 from the National Office of Airports, now prohibits passengers RAM to use its business lounges following the non-renewal of a contract. Behind what is akin to a common commercial conflict, is actually a real battle between the national company and the multinational, against a backdrop of issues around business customers, real cash cow air transport.
According to information, NAS wrote to the Royal Air Maroc in autumn 2018, the contract linking it to the national airline for the use of salons ending on December 31st. Obtaining no answer, it is squarely the CEO of the company, Hassan El Houry, who addressed the Royal Air Maroc, without more success. After these two attempts, the Kuwaiti-based multinational, which operates several airports around the world – such as Abidjan and Kabul – for a turnover close to $ 2 billion, has sent Royal Air Maroc a new proposal with commercial contract, with prices revised upwards, meaning that the offer would be “to take or to leave”. Here again, radio silence of the national company, which estimated, according to reliable information, that it would be a “blow of bluff” on the part of NAS, which could not put in executing his threats.
However, the multinational has indeed banned for several days RAM business passengers to borrow its lounges, provoking the anger of many VIPs who use the airport of Rabat, and worth to the management of the Royal Air Maroc many calls from disgruntled personalities. It is only from there that the RAM began to become aware of the image damage it could suffer on the peripheral airports, since it has its own salons in Casablanca and Marrakesh.
However, according to several observers close to the case, litigation around tariffs would only be the face of the Iceberg in the battle fought by the Royal Air Maroc and the multinational airport services. For several months now, NAS has been asking ONDA, which has granted it the license to operate business lounges at all of the Nation’s airports, that the Royal Air Maroc can no longer authorize passengers other than its passengers to borrow lounges in Casablanca and Marrakesh, as stipulated in the contract. On the side of the Royal Air Maroc, we highlight a “fuzzy” writing of the operating contract of ONDA, which does not formally forbid the RAM to accommodate passengers of companies “partners”. On one side or the other, we camp on its positions, especially as another rivalry is played on the operating lounges of the future terminal 1 of Casablanca Airport, under construction since many years, and that the RAM would like to exploit exclusively.
For NAS, operating the business lounges of Moroccan airports is only the first step in a much more ambitious development strategy in the kingdom, in order to invest in the more profitable sectors of Handling and catering, hence the desire of the multinational not to extend its relations with ONDA in order to provide a margin for negotiations on other subjects. This is especially so since NAS has invested heavily in the various fairs it operates, to make it a “product of appeal” of its know-how. It will be up to the RAM to find an exit for its business passengers quickly, at the risk of seeing them spinning to the competition…A case to follow