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Moroccan Flag Carrier Cancels Qatar Flights, Leaves Hundreds of Football Fans Stranded

Royal Air Maroc nixed the flights the night before Morocco-France matchup

by Fergus Cole

December 15, 2022

Photo: Royal Air Maroc 737 MAX 8. Courtesy of Boeing Commercial Airplanes

The national flag carrier of Morocco, Royal Air Maroc, canceled all of its flights to Doha on Wednesday, the day the country’s team was scheduled to play a historic quarter-final FIFA World Cup match against France.

Royal Air Maroc had planned to operate an extra seven flights on Wednesday from Casablanca (CMN) to Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha to carry fans to the historic match. 

The governing body of Moroccan football had promised to give away 13,000 free tickets for the semi-final match between Morocco and France. However, the flights—which were to be operated by Royal Air Maroc’s codeshare partner Qatar Airways—were blocked by officials in Qatar. 

While Qatari officials have yet to clarify why they ordered the flights to be canceled, it is likely because they were expecting many Moroccan travelers who didn’t have a match ticket. Qatar had previously said that only passengers with FIFA World Cup match tickets would be permitted entry to the country during the tournament to reduce strain on the Gulf State’s infrastructure.

However, the announcement from the airline that it would be canceling all flights to Qatar only came on Tuesday night, leaving hundreds of soccer fans stranded in airports and devastated that they would be missing out on the big game. While some passengers were likely not to have match tickets, hundreds of fans did as well as hotel bookings in Doha, leaving them out of pocket.

According to reports on social media, many fans flying from Casablanca believed they could purchase match tickets once at the airport in Doha, but this was not the case and led to minor scuffles between security officers and Moroccan soccer fans. 

A message was subsequently released by Hamad International Airport, telling people “not to go to the two airports [of Doha] until they have obtained tickets for the upcoming matches. We remind supporters that Hamad International Airport in Doha is not the official site for obtaining tickets for World Cup matches.”

Royal Air Maroc then announced to its customers via email, “Following the latest restrictions imposed by Qatari authorities, Royal Air Maroc regrets to inform customers of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways,” said the carrier. 

The airline did reassure passengers, however, that they would be reimbursed for any of the canceled flights. 

But this didn’t do much to diminish the anger of Moroccan supporters with match tickets who missed out. One Instagram user posted, “I would like to warmly thank Royal Air Maroc for allowing the fans of the lions of Atlas to be able to stand in endless queues to buy plane tickets to cancel in 7 flights in a row.”

Supporters affected by the cancelations were unlikely to have their mood lifted once the match got underway. Morocco ended up losing 2-0 to France, missing out on the chance to become the first African country ever to reach the World Cup final and compounding the misery for those forced to watch back home.