Royal Air Maroc (RAM) will finalise its long-haul fleet requirements by June. It is close to completing its fleet plans for the next 13 years, but is "fine-tuning" its needs, says chairman and chief executive Mohamed Hassad.

The Moroccan flag carrier has decided that its major requirement is for a 250/300-seat type for service entry in two to three years. RAM, traditionally a Boeing customer, is evaluating Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

The carrier's long-haul fleet comprises two Boeing 747s (one -200 and one -400) and two 757s. Hassad says the 757 is too small for destinations in the Middle East and South Africa, and the 747 is too large in the low season for its New York and Montreal routes.

"The solution is an aircraft in between the two," he says, adding that the airline "is nearly ready to make up its mind".

RAM's medium-haul aircraft requirements are being met by a new fleet of nine Boeing 737-700/800s, two of which (-800s) are already in service. The first -700 will be delivered next month, followed by a second in June. Three more 737s are due in 2000 and the remaining two in 2001.

Delivery of the new 737s, which will serve primarily the airline's European network, will allow RAM to phase out its ageing 737-200s from November 2000.

The carrier, which has seen a dramatic improvement in its financial performance and traffic growth over the past four years, has the cash flow to fund its medium-and long-haul fleet development plans, says Hassad. Over 10 years, the airline expects to invest $100 million a year in its new fleet.

RAM's fleet development plans are part of an effort to secure its future as a carrier operating outside the major airline alliances. "It is clear that, in this kind of world, with the race to be big, when you are small you need characteristics that others don't have," says Hassad. The airline has links with Air France, Air Algerie, Iberia, Gulf Air and TWA, but it is not planning to pursue more extensive alliances.

Source: Flight International