The Film Casablanca References an Important Air France Hub I Never Knew Existed

Joe Brancatelli, in his weekly newsletter, shares a fact that I never knew: after the Germans invaded France during World War II, Air France moved its operations out of country. They operated a hub in Casablanca. And that’s why when Humphrey Bogart puts Ingrid Bergman on a plane, sending her away with her husband, it’s an Air France plane.

Speaking of Casablanca, have you ever wondered why Rick would send Ilsa and Laslo to Lisbon on an Air France flight? Why would Air France be flying from Casablanca to Lisbon in the middle of a war?

I’ve seen Casablanca dozens of times and it never occurred to me to wonder about that cinematic aeronautical anomaly. This year, though, I did wonder and I tracked down an answer: When Germany invaded France in 1940, Air France hightailed it to Morocco. Moved the planes and the entire enterprise from Paris to Morocco. It flew throughout the war from a temporary hub in … Casablanca.

Now of course the major airline based in Casablanca is Royal Air Maroc, and they’re joining oneworld.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Because Casablanca was a “neutral” French colony governed by Vichy, it is not at all surprising that Victor Lazlo and Ilsa Lund escaped on an Air France plane, hub or no hub to the extent they even had them in those days.

  2. Uh, even without the war, it probably would have been Air France at that point in Moroccan history anyway, no?

  3. After the Kingdom of Morocco, Air France used to be the second biggest shareholder in the Moroccan flag carrier.

    Some may say RAM has sort of been to Air France what Thai has been to SAS.

  4. Similarly for 13 years in the 19th century, the capital of Portugal was Rio de Janiero (due to Napoleon’s activity in Europe).

  5. And don’t forget that Portugal was “neutral” too, although buying their neutrality (and thus ensuring Spanish neutrality) left that nation with decades of totalitarian rule.

  6. Isn’t that an old TAP logo on the plane (which would make sense if the plane was flying to Lisbon)?

  7. My research in French sources reveals that Air France shifted its hub to Marseilles, not Casablanca in 1940-42. Does anyone have any historical sources that refer to the airline having its headquarters in Casablanca? Tom

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