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Frequent flyers on American, British Airways, or one of the other 13 members of the Oneworld alliance will soon have another member to look forward to for codeshare flights and frequent flyer points. The new member will also extend the alliance's reach into Africa.

For the first time in four years, a new member is joining the Oneworld airline alliance. Royal Air Maroc, the flag carrier of Morocco, shared plans on Wednesday afternoon to join the alliance led by American Airlines and British Airways. Royal Air Maroc will be the 14th carrier to join the growing network of airlines that also includes key operators like Cathay Pacific, Finnair, and Qantas.

In joining the Oneworld network of carriers, Royal Air Maroc will greatly expand the alliance’s currently weak reach into Africa. British, Qatar, and Royal Jordanian do operate service into the continent, of course, but none have hubs in the region. According to data from the alliance, the addition of Royal Air Maroc, which operates a hub out of Casablanca, will add 34 completely new destinations and 21 new countries to the service map — though not all of those destinations are in Africa.

This is the first time that Royal Air Maroc is officially joining a mainstream alliance — and it’s a push back against a recent strategy that many carriers have taken to building partnerships on an ad hoc basis. Both Emirates and Etihad, two of the biggest carriers in the gulf, for example, have select codeshare and loyalty partners around the world, but none have official, broad membership an alliance like Star or Oneworld. Aer Lingus, similarly, is now officially part of IAG, the parent company of British Airways, but has chosen not to join the Oneworld alliance.

Royal Air Maroc’s move is also significant because it will help Oneworld compete with Star Alliance, its chief rival, in the region. Right now, EgyptAir, Ethopian Airlines, and South African Airways all contribute African hubs to the Star Alliance network, giving it a significant advantage over Oneworld and Skyteam, the network that Delta calls home.

Outside of Africa, Oneworld is also making strides in the far east. Following American Airlines’ investment in China Southern, rumors have swirled around whether the Chinese carrier would eventually leave Skyteam to join Oneworld.

By mid-2020, Royal Air Maroc’s entry in its new alliance should be complete. At that point, network passengers should be able to connect internationally into Casablanca and throughout Africa on codeshare flights. Loyalty programs and points will also extend through its network, meaning that eventually one should be able to use American AAdvantage or British Airways Avios points to fly on Royal Air Maroc. That functionality, however, may take longer to implement.

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Tags: africa, oneworld, royal air maroc

Photo Credit: A 787 Dreamliner jet painted in Royal Air Maroc livery, sits idle on the tarmac parking at Paine Field in Everett Skift