• With Africa increasingly opening up by the day and slowly becoming the business hub of the world, more and more African airlines are finding themselves busier than ever.
  • Already aviation is a considerable force, supporting $55.8 billion of economic activity and 6.2 million jobs in Africa, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
  • There is need for African Airlines to work better together and African governments to swiftly adopt the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

Every day millions of passengers crisscross the African continent aboard different African airlines for business, pleasure or both. 

With Africa increasingly opening up by the day and slowly becoming the business hub of the world, more and more African airlines are finding themselves busier than ever airlifting millions of passengers to different destinations across the continent.

Already aviation is a considerable force, supporting $55.8 billion of economic activity and 6.2 million jobs in Africa, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). While that is impressive the truth is African airlines are only scratching the surface of what aviation can contribute to building Africa’s future.

Air Namibia

During this year’s African Airlines Association (AFRAA) conference held at Ravenala Attitude Hotel in Mauritius, aviation stakeholders came together under the rallying call of ‘winning together’ to try and find solutions to overcome some of the biggest challenges in the African Aviation industry.

One discussion on the table was the need for African Airlines to work better together and African governments to swiftly adopt the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

Also read: Here are top 10 most grand and largest airports in Africa

There is a perception that African Airlines are afraid to implement the open skies agreement due to their slow nature in embracing the agreement.

The lack of an “open skies” deal to ensure smooth flights across Africa continues to be a headache to millions of passengers travelling between one part of the continent to another, or from Asia or Europe to Africa, who are forced to transit through Dubai first wasting precious time and resources.

Air Mauritius

Meanwhile, African airlines have been ranked the safest in the world for a third consecutive year. Airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa experienced zero jet hull losses and zero fatalities in 2018 compared to the rest of the world, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) data for the 2018 safety performance of the commercial airline industry which shows continuing safety improvements over the long term.

An African Airlines Association (AFAA) chat detailing top 10 African Airlines by Passenger, 2018 (courtesy)

Considering that, here are the top 10 African Airlines by passengers in 2018, according to the African Airlines Association (AFAA) estimates.

SafAir

SafAir. (FLY Airlines)

In 2018, South Africa's favourite low-cost airline which began operations in October 2014 airlifted 3.2 million passengers.

Comair

Comair. (FlightGlobal)

Comair Limited is an airline based in South Africa that operates scheduled services on domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee. In 2018, it successfully airlifted 3.5 million passengers.

Kenya Airways

A Kenya Airways plane

Kenya’s national carrier airlifted 3.6 million passengers in 2019.

Mango airlines

A Mango Boeing 737-800 passenger aircraft lands at Cape Town International airport in Cape Town, South Africa, January 12, 2018.

South Africa’s state-owned low-cost airline based at OR Tambo International Airport closed 2018 having airlifted 3.7 million passengers.

Tunis Air

A Tunisair Airbus A320-200 plane is pictured in Tunis, Tunisia, March 4, 2018.

Tunis Air airlifted 4 million passengers in 2018.

Royal Air Maroc

Royal Air Maroc

Moroccan national carrier as well as the country's largest airline, Royal Air Maroc, airlifted 6.2 million passengers in 2018.

South African Airways

South African Airways.

Africa’s-second biggest economy national airline airlifted 7.75 million passengers last year.

Air Algerie

AFP
Air Algerie

The national airline of Algeria, Air Algérie, closed 2018 having airlifted roughly 7.8 million passengers.

Egypt Air

Egypt Air

Egypt’s national carrier managed to carry close to 8 million passengers.

Ethiopian Airlines

Reuters
A member of the ground crew directs an Ethiopian Airlines plane at the Bole International Airport in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, August 21, 2015. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Ethiopian Airlines, which is currently Africa’s largest airline airlifted 8.75 million passengers last year.