Iberia is planning to operate four humanitarian flights to Morocco starting next week. The local government has recently announced it will extend the ban on international flights following the increase of COVID-19 cases worldwide due to the new Omicron variant. The airline is close to finishing the year with a 100% capacity recovery compared to its pre-pandemic traffic levels.
By the end of November, Morocco announced new travel restrictions, following an increase of COVID-19 cases in Europe. First, the government banned flights from France as COVID levels rose there, then extended to other countries. Shortly after, some airlines announced they would stop their connectivity with the North African country, including Iberia and Ryanair.
In October, the Spanish flag carrier operated one daily flight between Madrid and Marrakech and several flights from Madrid to Casablanca and Tanger with Iberia’s branch Air Nostrum. As a whole, the airline had 128 scheduled flights between both countries, a 52% reduction compared to 2019 levels prior to the COVID pandemic.
The airline industry was hopeful Morocco’s travel restriction wouldn’t last too much, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Earlier this week, Morocco extended the flight ban because of the Omicron variant. The National Office of Airports announced that “the suspension of all passenger flights to and from Morocco will be extended until January 31, 2022.”
Back to Morocco
Following the announcement of Morocco, Iberia decided to operate a few humanitarian flights in January. The airline stated,
“Due to Morocco’s decision to increase the ban on international travel up to January 31 to avoid the rise of Omicron cases, Iberia has decided to schedule more humanitarian flights, helping those that need to return to Spain in January.”
On January 7, Iberia will operate the first humanitarian flight between Casablanca and Madrid. That will be the first of four operations the Spanish flag carrier will have; Iberia will fly from Casablanca on the 14, 21, and 28, respectively. Each flight will be operated with an Airbus A320 family aircraft, with a capacity to handle between 140 and 200 passengers.
Additionally, the passengers impacted by Morocco’s travel restrictions can change their tickets, free of charge, through Iberia’s call center.
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How’s Iberia closing the year?
Iberia is already operating close to 100% of its pre-pandemic map route, the airline recently announced in a statement. Nonetheless, it is still far from deploying the capacity it had in 2019.
According to the Cirium database, Iberia operates 10,456 flights in December 2021and offers 1.67 million seats. Both numbers are 21.5% and 19.8% below pre-pandemic capacity levels. Iberia is still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the last few weeks, due to the increase of new Omicron cases throughout Europe.
In January, Iberia is scheduling 10,818 flights, an 18.3% decrease compared to 2020 levels (before the pandemic struck Europe). Nonetheless, if Lufthansa’s words are an indication of anything, Iberia may end up canceling a significant number of flights between January and February.
Last week, Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said that the group will cut 33,000 flights from its winter schedule, a 10% reduction in the entire network plan. The Omicron variant is impacting the airline’s bookings worldwide.
When do you expect the Omicron wave to go down and airline bookings to go up again? Let us know in the comments below.