- The British airliner easyJet today announced its upcoming launch of a direct line London - Marrakech. This is the first ever Moroccan - and indeed African - destination of a European low-fare airliner. The cheap direct link to the central Moroccan city reflects the growing importance of the North African country as a European tourist destination.
EasyYet is one of Europe's pioneering airliners on the low fare market, making significant profits while traditional airliners find it difficult to make ends meet. Most expansions headed by easyJet Chief Executive Andrew Harrison and his celebrated predecessor Ray Webster have proven successful. If easyJet is to sell cheap tickets from Britain to Morocco, there will be a profitable market.
CEO Harrison made the announcement today. EasyJet is to expand with three new non-EU destinations this summer; Istanbul (Turkey), Rijeka (Croatia) and Marrakech (Morocco). Flights are to start in July and fares will be as low as easyJet customers are used to.
Especially with its Moroccan destination, easyJet is breaking new ground. It is the first time ever that a European low-fare airliner will start flights to an African destination. With Marrakech, easyJet is however pushing the limits for low-fare flights. Safety regulations prescribing the maximum working hours for captain and crew would force them to spend the night at the destination, thus making the connection more expensive to operate. A possible high frequency of delays could make the new route unsustainable.
Mr Harrison however is confident he has found a Moroccan airport where his airliner can stay on schedule, thus avoiding expensive delays and forced overnight stays. The easyJet CEO demonstrated great optimism when presenting the new routes. "This is probably our most significant expansion since the start of our new routes to Central and Eastern Europe in May 2004. EasyJet continues to seize opportunities and to stay ahead of the industry - both geographically and technically," he commented.
The economic airliner can count on a rapidly growing stream of European tourist to Morocco; the historic city of Marrakech being one of the favourite destinations. According to Mr Harrison, however, there were more reasons to chose a Moroccan destination. "Croatia, Turkey and Morocco are forging an ever-closer relationship with the UK and Europe. As a consequence, the demand for low-fares to these countries is growing quickly, and easyJet will be in a unique position to benefit from this development," he told the press today.
While Marrakech is a becoming relatively popular destination, the central Moroccan city however is more famed for one or two-day excursions for travellers wanting to get a first hand impression of Moroccan culture and history. Agadir and developing resorts in northern Morocco are still the prime destinations for tourist. Business travellers, on the other hand, head for Casablanca and Rabat.
EasyJet's choice of Marrakech therefore probably was more related to the favourable conditions given by local airport authorities. While easyJet is the first European low-fare airliner to target Morocco, two Moroccan low-fare airliners already use Marrakech as their basis. Atlas Blue and Regional Air, both subsidiaries of Morocco's national airliner Royal Air Maroc, fly from the favourable Marrakech airport. Regional Air even flies abroad, to the nearby Spanish island of Gran Canaria.
For Morocco's tourism industry - the most promising economic sector in the poor Maghreb country - the arrival of easyJet nevertheless is good news. The British airliner will open up central Morocco to low budget mass tourism and to the growing number of European weekend trippers. In particular Marrakech could be opened up for new infrastructure investments.
The first flights from London's Gatwick airport to Marrakech will commence on 4 July. Flights are to be daily, at least in the summer season. The cheapest fares are set at £31 for a one-way trip. Ticket sales start on 3 March on easyJet's website after the principle, "first come, first served". Only the first sold tickets are at the lowest fare, while the last available tickets tend to be very costly.
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