Having lost $109.1 million per month since March 20, Royal Air Maroc is in hot water due to the COVID-19 crisis. Some customers believe the airline is attempting to hike prices to account for its losses.
Rabat – Morocco’s national airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), has reportedly forced passengers who made a flight booking before July 15 to cancel and purchase new tickets with significantly higher prices.
Royal Air Maroc announced on July 10 on its official website the launch of an exceptional flight program in line with the border reopening. In light of the nationwide campaign of repatriating Moroccans stranded abroad, RAM presented a “well studied” list of prices to meet the customer demand.
However, some customers who had purchased tickets before borders closed found themselves entangled in allegedly unfair booking practices.
Mohamed, a Moroccan residing in the US, purchased a round-trip ticket from Casablanca to New York for his mother-in-law earlier this year. He booked her a seat on a Royal Air Maroc flight through an external booking agency.
Mohamed’s mother-in-law departed for New York in February and was set to return to Casablanca in April. However, she became stranded in the US after Morocco closed its borders in March.
The July 8 announcement that Morocco would open its borders to Moroccan citizens, residents, and their families from July 15 was, at first, welcome news.
“We were all excited to learn that flights will be resumed starting July 15, and we were looking forward to changing her return flight and getting her on an airplane as soon as possible,” Mohamed told Morocco World News.
However, the process was “difficult and continues to be challenging,” he said.
“At first, I contacted the agency that we initially booked our flight with and quickly learned that agencies have been cut out of the process and passengers are required to contact the airline directly,” he explained.
Mohamed told MWN he spent five hours trying to get through to RAM’s customer service department. When he finally connected with a Royal Air Maroc representative, his booking problems continued.
“I was informed that I have to cancel the return flight and receive a voucher for the remaining value, and only then I can use the voucher to book a new one-way flight.”
To Mohamed, the process did not make sense. He insisted that he should be able to get credit for the remaining value of the old ticket immediately and only pay the difference for the new ticket, modifying rather than canceling the original flight ticket.
He then spoke to another agent who he believed to be a supervisor. The agent immediately granted him the credit for his canceled ticket but informed him he must book a new one-way flight from New York to Casablanca for his mother-in-law, rather than adjusting the date of the initial return flight.
“This makes no sense given that one-way flight cost almost the same as the round-trip,” he said.
“In this case, it was higher (…) I ended up paying [an] additional 52% of what I paid for the original round-trip ticket.”
Capitalizing on COVID-19
Mohamed expressed his frustration with the booking maneuver, believing Royal Air Maroc is taking advantage of the fact that Moroccans are stuck abroad with few options to return home.
“There are other Moroccans that had their return flight initially scheduled toward the end of July,” he continued. “And yet, they were asked to cancel their return flight and book a new one on the same day, knowing that the new ticket is costing around 200% of what they paid for initially.”
Royal Air Maroc has a long history of customer complaints, but the airline is in particularly hot water amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Having lost $109.1 million per month since March 20, the flag carrier is laying off 30% of its global workforce. Now, some customers believe Royal Air Maroc is attempting to hike prices in a bid to account for its losses.
“We understand that this is a challenging time with COVID-19 and all airlines are struggling to arrange flights and meet customers’ expectations, but I believe RAM [put] profit and greed ahead of any other considerations, and is trying to take advantage of the situation,” Mohamed argued.
Multiple customers commented on the issue in the “Moroccan Americans in New York” Facebook group.
Several group members described similar experiences to Mohamed’s, and many claimed they were unable to connect with RAM customer service representatives.
Morocco World News called Royal Air Maroc for comment on the booking issue. The customer service department in Morocco did not answer, but sent a text message with a link to file an inquiry. While the link’s URL indicates it will route the user to a claims form, it directs them to the homepage of the RAM website.
MWN also attempted to contact Royal Air Maroc’s offices in the US, but neither the sales, reservations, or administration extensions were available to answer our calls. The administrative department’s voice mailbox was full.
Mohamed urged others in a position similar to his to file a complaint with the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
He argued that before Royal Air Maroc can conduct any operations in the US, the airline must obtain authorization from DOT. This authorization ensures the safety and consumer rights of passengers within US territory.
Passengers who face issues with airlines may file complaints with DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. The department pledges to review and respond to consumers’ complaints, including those concerning flight delays, cancellations, refunds, ticketing practices, and more.
DOT provides legal advice to unhappy customers and collaborates with the US Department of Justice in order to ensure justice in case a company is proven guilty of consumer violations.
Mohamed, however, said friends advised him to hold off on filing a complaint about the Royal Air Maroc booking issue with DOT until his mother-in-law returns to Morocco. “There are concerns with retaliation from RAM once they receive the complaint through DOT,” he told MWN.
Once his mother-in-law is home safe, Mohamed is set on submitting his complaint to DOT.
“I also encourage all Moroccans who feel that they were taken advantage of to submit a complaint with DOT,” he continued.
“We need to make sure that RAM understands that Moroccans in the US are protected by the Air Consumer Protection Act and that their third-world practices are considered illegal in the US.”