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Review: Royal Air Maroc (787) Business Class from New York to Casablanca

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TO THE POINT: While it may seem like an obscure airline to most travelers, Royal Air Maroc is a great option for those looking to use Etihad Guest Rewards to make a partner booking. The pros: a terrific award redemption, comfy lie-flat seats and stellar meal service. The cons: poor food options in the Air France lounge at JFK and sub-par blankets.

TPG Contributor Michael Spelfogel recently experienced Royal Air Maroc’s new business-class product on the airline’s 787 Dreamliner from New York (JFK) to Casablanca (CMN). Here’s his review. (All photos are by the author).

As part of my TPG internship, I was tasked with exploring all the redemption possibilities for partner awards with Etihad Guest miles. After much research and deliberation, we decided to book award flights for three different intern trips — one to Belgrade, Serbia in Air Serbia’s brand new business class; one to Dakar, Senegal on South African Airways (review coming soon); and one, for me, to Casablanca, Morocco, on Royal Air Maroc.

Unfortunately, Etihad doesn’t make it easy to redeem with partners — to book an award flight on Royal Air Maroc with Etihad Guest miles, you must call Etihad’s service center (I suggest contacting the one in Manchester), and manually check availability date by date with an agent. It helps to give representatives the exact flight numbers, and of course, to have an agent who is knowledgeable and willing to help — for every flight that you request, the agent must make a dummy booking to see if the system “accepts the reservation attempt,” in order to confirm availability.

Royal Air Maroc is one of over 20 Etihad partners.
Royal Air Maroc is one of more than 20 Etihad partners.

Once you find dates that will work, the representative sends you an email with the reservation so you can confirm that the names and details are correct. Etihad will then deduct the appropriate number of miles and charge you the taxes and fees.

My round-trip award ticket ended up costing a total of 88,000 Etihad Guest miles, plus $311 in taxes and fees. Note that Etihad charges the same number of miles for any itinerary above 4,000 miles and stopovers are allowed for the same price, so you could potentially fly Royal Air Maroc from New York (JFK) to any European destination the airline serves, and enjoy a free stopover in Casablanca, for just 44,000 miles each way in business class. Availability was pretty good, too, and I found space in business class nearly every other day — our cabin was only 25% full when I flew, too.

Airport and Lounge

Royal Air Maroc leaves from Terminal 1 at JFK — note that there’s no TSA PreCheck line and the wait can really be extensive, especially during the evening hours when the red-eye flights to Europe leave. Luckily, Royal Air Maroc offers two flights per day from JFK, one in the morning and one at night. Since I was on the morning flight, there was barely any line at all.

The Check in Counter at JFK Terminal 1.
The check-in counter at JFK’s Terminal 1.

I was able to check in online and print out a boarding pass. I stopped by the check-in counter, which had no line for premium passengers, and was quickly escorted to security.

Lucky for me, there was no one in line for priority security.

Once through, I went directly to the Air France lounge. All Royal Air Maroc business-class passengers have access to it, as do Priority Pass members and SkyTeam elites.

The entrance to the Air France Lounge.
The entrance to the Air France lounge at JFK.

The space itself was designed nicely and the lounge had a nice look to it. Additional seating was available upstairs and there’s a separate room for Air France first-class passengers flying in La Première, but unfortunately it was closed when I was there.

Air France has a two level lounge at JFK.
Air France has a two level lounge at JFK.

The food offerings in the lounge, however, were thoroughly disappointing, as there were only a handful of meager sandwich options and noodles available, along with a few drink choices.

The few food options that morning, limited to sandwiches.
Very few food options were offered that morning.

Needless to say, this was not quite the breakfast I was looking for.

Air France, naturally, always has plenty of Alcohol on stock.
Air France always has plenty of alcohol in stock.

Before boarding, I left the lounge early to see if there were other food options around. Korean Air also has a lounge nearby that’s open to Priority Pass members — unfortunately, it didn’t open until after my flight departed, so I bought a quick snack in the terminal and headed to the gate.

Despite it being an hour before the flight, I could barely get to the premium-class line because the gate area was mobbed by passengers. Apparently Royal Air Maroc boards its planes almost an hour early, so I was able to walk right onto the plane.

Business Class

I was first to board the Dreamliner and was impressed by the cabin’s Arabian-style décor. The plane has just three rows of business class in a 2-2-2 configuration.

Royal Air Maroc has a 2-2-2 configuration in business class.
Royal Air Maroc sports a 2-2-2 layout in business class.

There were two lavatories for the 18 business-class passengers (although there were only three other business-class travelers on my flight). The seats are fully lie-flat, but look pretty odd when reclined. The window seats on either side recline upward, making for a higher bed, while the aisle seats recline downward, seemingly making it easier for the window passenger to climb over if the aisle passenger’s seat is in the lie-flat position.

The window seats moved upward when reclined.
The window seats moved upward when reclined.

However, this also meant that passengers with high reclining seats could not lie down and have their trays out for meals at the same time — during all meal services, I had to return to the takeoff and landing position in order to allow the tray table to be flat.

I would recommend one of the low reclining seats, along the aisles.
I’d recommend choosing one of the lower reclining seats that are situated along the aisle.

When reclined fully, I thought the bed was fine for sleeping and had no trouble doing so, even though I’d opted for the daytime flight. The blankets were nothing to write home about, roughly what one would expect to receive in economy, so that was a bit disappointing.

The new 787 Cabin was quite sleek.
Royal Air Maroc’s 787 business-class cabin was quite sleek.

Economy

Before the flight, I took a quick peek of the economy cabin. It looked very nice, with TVs at every seat and charging ports for electronics.

Each seat has personal entertainment.
Each economy seat comes with its own IFE screen.

The economy cabin was arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration.

The Economy Cabin of RAM's 787.
The economy cabin of the airline’s 787.

At 22,000 miles each way to practically anywhere Royal Air Maroc flies, this is an incredibly solid redemption option when using Etihad Guest Miles.

Amenities

Each business-class passenger received an amenity kit with a toothbrush, lip balm, hand cream, an eyeshade, ear plugs, refreshing spray, a comb, a shoe horn and a pair of socks. The quality of the products was very good, but it was certainly not the largest amenity kit I have ever seen. The bathrooms offered additional hand cream and moisturizer, and there were pieces of cloth to dry your hands with (instead of paper towels), which the crew continued to restock throughout the flight.

The Amenity Kit.
The amenity kit we received in business class was about average.

Toward the front of the cabin, there was a display with flowers, snacks and a selection of newspapers in English, Arabic, and French.

Royal Air Maroc gives passengers plenty of reading material.
Royal Air Maroc offered passengers plenty of reading material.

In-Flight Entertainment

Royal Air Maroc’s 787 Dreamliner offers a large, 23-inch in-flight entertainment screen for every business-class passenger. There’s a remote close to the seat so you can use its touchscreen interface to operate your TV, even when you’re fully reclined.

The Remote control was easily reachable from my seat.
The remote control was easy to reach from my seat.

There was a selection of a few dozen movies and TV shows to choose from, as well as games and the live map feature.

The TV's had good touch screens in addition to remotes.
You can tap or use the remote to control the TV.

While the screen itself was nice, I found its entertainment selection to be fairly limiting. There was no Wi-Fi onboard, which sadly I have come to expect from most domestic and international flights these days.

Food and Beverage

The meal service was definitely the most entertaining and elaborate aspect of the trip. Flight attendants served orange juice and other drinks shortly after boarding and brought around hot towels right after takeoff.

Champagne was served after boarding.
Champagne was served shortly after boarding.

I was soon brought the menu offering selections for a three-course meal as well as a pretty extensive drink and cocktail list. Royal Air Maroc serves both a full meal and a light snack on its flights to and from New York.

Royal Air Maroc Menu for Business class.
A peek at the Royal Air Maroc business-class menu.

Because the flight took off shortly after 9:00am and I had just had breakfast at JFK, I opted for the snack first and saved the full meal for the end of the flight. The snack consisted of a turkey club sandwich with yogurt and a selection of bread rolls on the side.

The first snack.
The first snack was a tasty turkey club sandwich.

After each meal service, flight attendants came through the aisle with an entire trolley of cheeses and wines, of which you could choose any or all to try. For the main course, we were first served a canapé starter that consisted of a salmon spread, hummus and another pastry.

The canapé starter was very good.
The canapé starter was very good.

Next, I was served a salad that came with lox (salmon), which was also pretty good.

I liked the salad as well, it was surprisingly fresh.
The salad was surprisingly fresh.

For my main course, I ordered beef tenderloin, which was slightly overcooked and came with potatoes and vegetables.

The main course was a slightly overcooked beef tenderloin.
The main course was a slightly overcooked beef tenderloin.

I was also served a wine accompaniment with each course. Lastly, I had a choice of three desserts and opted for the strawberry cake, which was really good.

My favorite part was the strawberry cake for dessert.
My favorite part of the whole meal service was the strawberry cake I had for dessert.

I thought that the catering was one of the best parts of the flight experience, especially the cheese and wine carts you could summon upon request.

This was definitely a unique touch to Royal Air Maroc.
Cheese carts were definitely a nice touch.

Arrival

While Royal Air Maroc seems to not do gate deplaning or boarding for its JFK-bound flights, business-class passengers get to take a special shuttle van from the plane to a fast-track immigration line instead of having to wait for the larger bus in a line that can be over an hour long at times.

A private van escorts you from the aircraft.
A private van escorted business-class passengers from the aircraft.

That was certainly a nice touch after a seven-hour flight.

Deplaning in Casablanca.
Deplaning in Casablanca.

Overall Impression

Royal Air Maroc’s new 787 Dreamliner is a significant improvement over the 767 aircraft that used to (and occasionally still does) operate the airline’s long-haul routes. While the soft product is excellent, the configuration of the lie-flat seats left more to be desired.

While not technically an alliance airline, Royal Air Maroc is expanding its fleet of 787 Dreamliners and destination offerings worldwide — the carrier will be operating daily flights from Washington D.C. and Montreal by this fall in addition to its twice-daily service from New York. And at just 44,000 Etihad Guest miles each way, it’s a great business-class option for trips across the Atlantic.

Have you flown on Air Maroc before? Tell us about your experience, below.

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