New carrier Air Arabia Maroc switches to Casablanca base

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Middle Eastern budget carrier Air Arabia is to establish its new Moroccan operation, Air Arabia Maroc, at the city of Casablanca rather than Rabat.

The airline plans to begin services from the base early next year, possibly by April, operating domestically and on routes to Europe and Africa.

Air Arabia Maroc will have an initial fleet of two or three Airbus A320 aircraft.

Sharjah-based Air Arabia has been planning a Moroccan station since reaching an agreement a year ago to take management control of local carrier Regional Air Lines.

Speaking to ATI, Air Arabia chief executive Adel Ali said Casablanca was a better choice of gateway than Rabat - the original site chosen for the base.

"There's not a lot of room for expansion or development [at Rabat]," he says, adding that the airport's infrastructure is limited.

Casablanca is a major commercial centre, he says: "The opportunity there is much greater."

Establishment of Air Arabia Maroc is still subject to governmental approval. Ali says the carrier will have a "pretty sizeable" fleet and adds: "We'll operate all over Europe and wherever an A320 can reach in Africa."

Air Arabia chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Thani says: "In addition to strengthening our operations in Sharjah, we are keen to capitalise on the immense potential in north Africa and southern Europe."

Regional Air Lines, which has 10 aircraft, operates to several cities in Morocco and four destinations in Spain and Portugal. Chairman Mohamed Hassan Ben Salah says he is confident the new carrier will contribute to increasing tourism to the country.

Bahrain investment firm Ithmaar Bank will be a partner to the two carriers in the new operation, although the precise ownership structure has not been disclosed.