Royal Air Maroc is the national airline of Morocco. Up until recently, it was an often overlooked, niche airline with flights to JFK, Boston, Washington D.C. and Miami from its hub city of Casablanca. Only JFK offers daily flights, with all other cities getting service three days of the week. If you were looking to fly to Morocco from the U.S., it was the only way to get there non-stop. They also have connecting flights to several cities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Royal Air Maroc is not currently a member of any airline alliance, so there was no way to use airline miles from U.S. carriers for flights. This is supposedly changing in 2020 when it’s planned that they will join the Oneworld alliance.
They are also not a transfer partner of any U.S. credit card program so you can’t transfer points from AMEX, Citi, Chase or Capital One to their program to book flights.
Then seemingly overnight, Royal Air Maroc became the buzz of the points and miles universe and I can’t understand why. Well, I do understand why but I just can’t see why those reasons are such a big deal.
The news that got everyone buzzing was Royal Air Maroc’s announcement that they will start flights between Casablanca and Beijing, China on January 20, 2020. This will be the longest flight on the airline’s schedule and the farthest east they’ve ever flown. They will fly 3x weekly between the cities. Flights to Beijing will be on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and flights to Casablanca will be on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. (There’s some question of the dates as a post on OMAAT says flights to Casablanca will be on Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday)
New routes are always interesting to points and miles people, and rightly so. When an airline starts flying between two cities, the demand for those flights is usually lower than normal, so award space on those flights is typically easier to find. That is a point junkie’s dream.
Point Chart Sweet Spot
Now, while there’s no way to transfer points into Royal Air Maroc’s program, they are a partner with the Etihad Guest program. Currently, you can book a business class flight longer than 2,000 miles on Royal Air Maroc with Etihad Guest for 44,000 miles. Etihad miles are easy to acquire because they are a transfer partner with American Express, Citi and Capital One.
Many blogs are assuming is that Etihad will allow people to book the Casablanca-Beijing flight for 44,000 miles. I’ve even seen someone say that you should be able to book a flight from the US to Casablanca to Beijing for the same 44,000 miles.
That is unknown because the flight isn’t even for sale yet (which is why I’m not even sure of the days of the week it will be flying).
Why I’m Not Excited
At this point, the only things we know is that Royal Air Maroc will be starting flights between Casablanca and Beijing in January 2020.
Everything else is just conjecture at this point. The longest flight Royal Air Maroc flies right now is from Casablanca to São Paulo at just over 4,600 miles. The flight to Beijing is over 6,200 miles and clocks in at 12 to 13 hours of flight time.
Flight reviews of Royal Air Maroc’s 787-9 are few and far between. There’s only one from Ben at OMAAT and one from the Points Guy website. Both reviews are in agreement that the seat is nice but the service, while well-intentioned and friendly, is lacking in some areas and the food and entertainment selections on the flight are just OK. The final opinion is that the experience is fine but since the price is only 44,000 miles, what is there to complain about? Those reviews were on flights from New York and Miami to Casablanca which run 7-8 hours.
What will the experience be when you’re on a plane for 5 additional hours and have another sub-par meal and friendly but inefficient service? There’s a big difference between a 7-hour flight and a 13 hour one. No matter what the cost, when does the in-flight experience overcome the “What a savings!” feeling?
The biggest question to be asked is if Etihad Guest even allows redemptions on the Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca to Beijing for 44,000 miles, how long will that redemption last? Will they allow you to add a flight from the US to Casablanca to China for the same amount of miles? The word is out on that one and no one seems to know.
Finally, you’re now talking about at least 20 hours of flying to get from JFK to Beijing. That’s not including the time on the ground in Casablanca, which we don’t know how long that could be because of the timing of connections. You might have to spend the night, which adds in travel time and expenses. A non-stop New York to Beijing flight is 14 hours and you’re there. I don’t know of many people who were thinking about adding a stopover in Morocco to their trip to China.
I can totally see why this flight or combination of flights are appealing to a specific portion of the people who use points and miles. Some of them are all about finding the sweetest of the sweet spots and exploiting them for maximum value. Other people are all about adding different airlines, airports and routes to their collection. I’m in neither of these categories. I’m most interested in getting to where I want to go, when I want to go, in the best type of aircraft possible for the least amount of miles. I don’t book places just because they’re cheap. I don’t travel to airports or on airlines only because I’ve never used them before.
That’s why I don’t see this as an excellent award value or a new super sweet-spot redemption. I’m never going to be able to take advantage of it and I even think it’s not a great choice for most travelers. It’s only a steal for those who are really into these types of offers or for those who have a minimal number of miles and need to get to Beijing by whatever means possible.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary