Hundreds of Moroccan football fans have been left devastated as last-minute flight cancellations look set to stop them from traveling to Qatar for Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final.
Morocco’s national airliner – Royal Air Maroc – had planned to run seven additional flights ahead of the game.
It made the decision after Morocco’s FA promised to give fans 13,000 free tickets to the clash with France.
But on Wednesday, it said Qatari officials had blocked the flights.
“Following the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities Royal Air Maroc regrets to inform customers of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways,” the airline said in a statement to the Reuters news agency.
It is unclear why Qatari officials ordered the airline to stop the flights, and the government’s central communications office has yet to respond to a BBC request for comment.
In a post on its social media channels on Monday, the airline had offered to lay on 30 additional flights as part of “an exceptional flight schedule” to help fans get to Qatar.
But affiliated travel agencies later said there would be just seven extra flights.
The cancellations left a number of fans who had already booked tickets and hotel rooms out of pocket.
The airline offered a full apology and said it would reimburse passengers.
Meanwhile, a number of Moroccan expatriates have been arriving in Qatar, attracted by the promise of free tickets from the country’s FA.
Around five million Moroccans are estimated to live around the world, with many of them in France.
But as fans arrived at fan centres at the Al Janoub stadium – many covering their heads with their Moroccan flags and caps to protect themselves from the heat – they were left angered when the free tickets promised by the FA failed to materialize.