Q: Peter, I am planning a trip to Morocco in December. The only option for air travel that I have is Royal Air Maroc. The evaluations I have seen on Google are bad. Is it really that bad? What is its safety record? What are your thoughts on safety in Morocco?
–Patricia Finder-Stone, DePere, Wis.
A: Though many user-review Web sites, such as TripAdvisor, tend to show mostly negative reviews of the airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM) is rated "safe" according to international safety standards, and is on par with many well-known, reputable air carriers in terms of its actual accident rate (measured in terms of accidents per number of takeoffs and landings), which is very low.
In terms of mechanical safety, Royal Air Maroc is an IOSA-registered airline (by the IATA Operational Safety Audit), which means that it is up to International Air Transport Association safety standards. IATA is the global trade association for airlines, and safety is one of its highest priorities.
Furthermore, under the SKYTRAX World Airline Star-Rating program (a quality analysis system that ranks airline product and service standards) Royal Air Maroc manages a three-star rating. A rating of three stars is considered average and indicates that overall its service is acceptable, but there may be some inconsistencies in product and service standards. This may explain why many user reviews are less than stellar.
In any case, if your desire for a direct flight to Morocco (Casablanca is the likely destination, as it is the country's airline hub) surpasses your need for quality, in-flight services, Royal Air Maroc is the only way to go. The airline offers nonstop flights from several U.S. cities.
Finally, if you don't mind transiting through another foreign city instead of flying nonstop from the United States, there are numerous other airline options. Air France, for example, has a code-share agreement with Royal Air Maroc and offers connecting flights from American cities to Casablanca via Paris. The same is true with Iberia (Madrid) and Lufthansa (Frankfurt). With any of these carriers, you would have to leave the States from a major international airport, such as Chicago O'Hare or JFK in New York.
Morocco is generally a safe destination. Violent crime is relatively rare, while petty crime is more rampant. Pick-pocketing, while a concern, can be avoided with vigilance. People in the streets may also pester you to hire them as guides, but just say "No!" firmly and walk away.