I decided to visit Mauritania in December 2018. This is a country I wanted to go to see for a long time and it seemed that – after a period of ten years or so when it was considered too dangerous to go – Mauritania was again safe to visit.
Although not many airlines fly to Mauritania, finding the best route from my home airport Keflavík, Iceland to Nouakchott offered a great number of combinations. Only Air France flies from mainland Europe, and while it seems to be the obvious choice, the drawbacks are a red-eye return flight and an overpriced business class. Turkish also flies from Istanbul but it’s a long detour and the flight times are not very convenient. Royal Air Maroc flies daily from Casablanca with good connections for Europe, and the return flight is in the morning, not at night. Both economy and business class seem to be reasonably good, but the latter is quite expensive, although not as much as Air France. Other airlines flying to Nouakchott include Air Algérie and Tunisair but they fly only a few times a week using uncomfortable aircrafts and short red-eye return flights – not the best options for me. Mauritania Airlines flies from Casablanca – would have been interesting to try. Eventually I flew with Bintar Canarias from Las Palmas – this airline has good reviews, reasonable prices and the schedules suited me. My return flight was with Royal Air Maroc as I had to go anyway to Morocco for work right after my stay in Mauritania.
Google map shows that the airport is at more than one hour driving time from Nouakchott but the actual time is about 30 minutes - you can reach the airport from the main road leading to Nouadhibou. The departure time for this flight was 7.10 from Nouakchott. The hotel insisted that it was enough for the transfer to leave at 5.00 and get to the airport at 5.30. There was however a queue of about 20 minutes to get inside the terminal building as there was a security check.
The terminal is, as I already mentioned in my previous flight report, modern, large, clean, and underused. There are many shops and services – but almost all of them were closed both when I arrived and when I left.
As we were just after the G5 Sahel meeting, a lot of VIP’s that looked like ambassadors and ministers of foreign affairs were at the airport with their body guards and the local police, so sorry, no photos from inside the terminal.
There were only three flights this morning: one Mauritania Airlines flight to Dakar, Conakry, Freetown, another to Cotonou, Brazzaville and Bamako, and the Royal Air Maroc flight to Casablanca. There was a separate desk for business and economy. It took me 20 minutes to get to the desk where I received my boarding pass in no time. Passport control took another 20 minutes, so I was airside one hour after getting to the airport.
Boarding was by bridge where newspapers were offered in Arabic and in French. Note the 60 years Royal Air Maroc sign on the plane.
Royal Air Maroc has proper business seats on its B737’s but they were not for me today. Business class would have been 400 € more expensive than economy for a two hours and 30 minutes one-way flight.
The cabin was in a reasonably good condition. Business class was in a 2+2 and economy class is in a 3+3 configuration. Seats were leather (or faux-leather?) and had some recline. There were overhead screen but not individual ones. I couldn’t pre-book an extra legroom seat, so I booked 22D, a standard seat with standard legroom. At least there was no charge for this seat.
The flight almost completely full with a lot of different passengers: Mauritanians travelling abroad, African and European business people, diplomats, Europeans working in Mauritania - was I maybe the only tourist?
The main French-speaking Moroccan newspaper called Le Matin immediately caught my attention: Royal Air Maroc has been admitted to OneWorld!
Push-back was on time at 07.15 and we took off from runway 34 at 07.22.
The on-board magazine
Airport upgrade was unfortunately not available this time
There are no individual screens, only overhead ones, but Royal Air Maroc tries to be modern and offers a new type of service: on board wi-fi allows to access only one site from which the passengers can download 12 movies, 18 TV shows, play one of the two games, listen to 37 different music or read one of the four magazines (Jeune Afrique and Science et Vie in French, Forbes and History in English). The idea is good, but wi-fi was available only in the second half of the flight and I didn’t manage to use it eventually except for the magazines.
The fleet of Royal Air Maroc
The airlines cleary targets two main types of clients: those who trave to/from Casablance, its hub in Morocco, and those who travel between Europe and Africa. RAM flies to 17 airports in Morocco, 30 in Africa, 37 in Europe, 4 in the Middle East and 4 in the US and Canada
A proper hot breakfast was offered on this flight. The fruit salad was good. The omelette was industrial but OK. The pain au chocolat and the croissant were not good. Why the quality was not very high, it is always appreciable to have a hot meal on a morning flight.
Some time later drinks were offered: orange juice, apple juice or water.
The rest of the flight was uneventful. We had a hard landing in the fog at 10.45, exactly on time.
We deplaned by bridge
Casablanca airport is really a nice one, modern, efficiant. Most passengers were on a connecting flight. There was only a short wait for passport control. Don't forget to fill out the form before you go to the officers.
The airport has a train stations. The same trains run hourly (departing currently at .55) to Casablanca's two main stations, Casa Voyageurs and Casa Port. Tickets cost 44 dirhams (4 €). Check which one of the two stations are closer to your accommodation if you stay in Casablanca.
The airport train looked old but was clean inside and run on time.
It took 30 minutes to get from the airport to Casa Voyageurs. This station has both an oldd and a modern part, both of them very nice.
If you need to go from Casablanca Airport to Marrakech, note that there are no direct trains. You need first to go the station called Oasis and change train there, but it's better to go to Casa Voyageurs as it has more facilities.
Thank you for reading my flight report.
Royal Air Maroc
Nouakchott - NKC
Casablanca - CMN
Royal Air Maroc offers a quality economy class product with leather seats, proper meals and inflight entertainment, and this flight was as good as a crowded economy class can get on short-haul.
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