American Airlines is making preparations to expand into Africa with flights from Philadelphia (PHL) to Casablanca (CMN), Morocco in 2020. This will mark the first entry into Africa ever by American. At about the same time, Royal Air Maroc will become a part of the Oneworld alliance, which American is a part of.
Delta and United are already serving this emerging market directly or through its partners. Their partners consist of SkyTeam’s Air France and Star Alliance’s Lufthansa.
Starting from 2020 the second batch of Dreamliners get to American. The announcement of new the route is based on the arrivals of new 787-800, and 787-900’s.
American’s flights between Philadelphia and Casablanca are scheduled on a Boeing 757. The 757 can be served as a transatlantic asset in a pinch.
The 2020 American Airlines Philadelphia to Casablanca flight schedule
Here’s an excerpt of American’s schedule for summer-flying in 2020, including the flights between Philly and Casablanca.
Aligning its new Strategy
American was concentrating on what they knew best: the European & Latin American markets. In the meantime, Delta and United were growing their revenue and miles flown. American’s strategy was largely due to its merger with US Airways.
American has filled some gaps in their markets like trans-Pacific routes to bolster alliance ties with Qantas, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific on Hong Kong, Sydney, and Auckland.
However, with the Casablanca flight from Philly American is signaling that it is ready to try new things and get out of their comfort zone. This is great for the airline as it puts pressure on the rest of the marketplace.
Vasu Raja, American Airlines’ VP of Planning
American Airlines Vice President of Planning Vasu Raja provided the following comment to Skift about the Philadelphia to Casablanca flights decision:
“The future of American Airlines is to grow internationally. It’s our job to figure out how we can go do that in a way that’s successful and profitable.”
If we were to take him at his words American has figured how to make the operation profitable and successful while growing their international portfolio.
The African airline market
Part of the strategy to grow internationally lies in the funneling of passengers.
To funnel passengers through the emergent market of Africa:
A passenger typically needs to transfer in Lagos (Nigeria) or in Johannesburg (South Africa), or Cape Town (South Africa). Or, the passenger has to fly to a destination in Europe on one of the airline partners to get to the United States.
However, that would bring the direct Africa-destinations currently in existence from three to four when we add Casablanca:
- Two destinations by Delta.
- One destination by United.
- One destination by American. If we look at a macro sense of things the US airline marketplace still has boundaries which don’t have direct competition as of yet.
Oneworld is welcoming Royal Air Maroc
Royal Air Maroc will join the Oneworld Alliance in mid-2020. It will be the only African airline belonging to the alliance.
In addition to American Airlines adding the Casablanca route, having a partner in the emerging African airline market is critical and crucial for Oneworld. With partners like Royal Air Maroc, Oneworld will have a strong position in the Africa-market.
Is it a risky business move?
As in every business, any business move is risky. The Casablanca-move is also risky for American, which is one of the big three (US airlines), trying to gain a foothold in Africa.
Delta has a foothold in Sub-Saharan Africa, and United in Cape Town (South Africa). With American getting a foothold in Morocco it seems like a great choice for them in expanding into the African continent.
Finding a route with no competition these days might be an uphill battle. However, if a new route is found then it might just be a winning combination.
Royal Air Maroc as part of Oneworld
Having Royal Air Maroc as part of Oneworld would definitely benefit the Oneworld partners.
This especially benefits the IAG group of airlines, which includes British Airways, Iberia, and American Airlines.
Many of the destinations served overlap with the aforementioned airlines. But that also brings passenger traffic to other parts of the world where service is underserved or non-existent.
While Royal Air Maroc’s Hub and focus cities are within Morocco, their reach expands outside of the African Continent.
Countries like France, Egypt, Germany, Mali, and Sierra Leone add variety to Oneworld. These are destinations served under the competition or not served at all.
Also, the move could bring American Airlines much closer to reestablishing connections to India. American has been (virtually) flying to India, thanks to the anti-trust agreement between American and the IAG founder airlines British Airways and Iberia.
British Airways and Iberia have been flying these routes since the group knows the market better. However, leveraging and de-risking American’s return to India hasn’t been without its challenges. Hopefully, gaining a foothold in Morocco means gaining an ally on their way east.
Although American Airlines’ flight from Philadelphia to Casablanca might be the anchor flight, I could see others folding into the equation.
Hubs like Miami, Charlotte (North Carolina), New York (JFK), Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and last but not least the super hub of Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) could be under consideration, as well.
It was an evolutionary step for American and Oneworld to take part in the expansion of the emerging and exciting continent of Africa. Hopefully both American and Oneworld have found a partner in Royal Air Maroc. It could fill the gap in what has been a black hole-schedule in Africa.
I know this has been years in the making. But if Oneworld could get a partner for mainland China (perhaps with China Southern) then Oneworld could punch in above their weight.