The Largest Airlines in Africa

An EgyptAir flight right after take-off.
An EgyptAir flight right after take-off.

Airlines are gaining popularity in Africa because many countries do not have well-developed road and rail network because of financial challenges. The rainy seasons have also increased the cost of the maintenance of the infrastructure. The operation of airlines can play a significant role in the economy of a country. Most of the largest airlines in Africa are owned partially or wholly by the national government while some of the European airlines are the major shareholders of these African airlines.

1. EgyptAir

EgyptAir is the flag carrier airline in Egypt with its headquarter at the Cairo International Airport. The airline operates both passenger and freight services to over 70 destinations around the world. The airline has an extensive network of domestic flights focused mainly on Cairo. EgyptAir is owned 100% by the Government of Egypt with EgyptAir Holding Company formed in 2002. Three carriers operate under the same AOC but are managed separately including the EgyptAir Airline, EgyptAir Cargo, and EgyptAir Express. EgyptAir serves over 12 destination in Egypt, 19 in Africa, and 29 destinations in Asia, Europe, and America. The airline maintains about 68 passenger fleets including Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed L, and McDonnell Douglas.

2. South African Airways

South African Airways is the country’s largest airline and flag carrier. The airline has its headquarter at the Airways Park at the OR Tambo International Airport. SAA flies to about 58 destinations around the world in partnership with other carriers including SA Express, SA Airlink, and Mango. The airline manages a fleet of about 54 aircraft, mainly Airbus and Boeing. SAA was established in 1934 following the acquisition of the Union Airways by the government. The airline currently owns Mango Carrier which is a low-cost domestic airline.

3. Royal Air Maroc

Royal Air Maroc is Morocco’s national carrier and also the country’s largest airline. The airline is 100% owned by the government and is headquartered at Casablanca-Anfa Airport. Royal Air Maroc operates domestic flights in Morocco and scheduled international flights worldwide. The airline was founded in 1953 from the merger of Air Atlas and Air Transport Marco. As of 2013, Royal Air Maroc operated 46 passenger fleets that were all Boeing to over 90 destinations including 17 cities within Morocco and 11 cities in France. The airline serves 24 countries in Africa and 12 countries in Europe.

4. Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines is 100% owned by the government of Ethiopia and is a national flag carrier. The airline was established in 1945 and began its domestic operations in 1946, followed by international operations in 1951. Ethiopian Airlines is a member of Star Alliance. Ethiopian Airlines is headquartered in Bole International Airport from where it serves over 113 passengers and freight destinations. The airline serves 19 domestic network and 35 freight destinations and also flies more destinations in Africa than any other airline. Ethiopian Airlines is one of the profitable airlines in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the region. The airline operates 77 passenger fleets including Airbus A350-900, Boeing 737, 767, 777, and 787, and Bombardier Dash 8Q400.

Which Are The Largest Airlines In Africa?

RankCountryAirline / HoldingNumber Of Passengers Carried, 2012 (in millions)Passenger FleetCurrent Destinations
1 EgyptEgyptAir 8.36878
2 South AfricaSouth African Airways 8.15842
3 MoroccoRoyal Air Maroc 5.84690
4 EthiopiaEthiopian Airlines 4.668101
5 AlgeriaAir Algérie4.44368
6 TunisiaTunisair 3.83266
7 KenyaKenya Airways 3.64356
8 NigeriaArik Air2.32630
9 MauritiusAir Mauritius1.31220
10 LibyaLibyan Airlines1.22022

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