The Top 10 Non-African Airlines To Serve Africa

Africa isn’t a continent that gets a huge amount of attention for aviation, which is a shame. This year, there are over 31 million round-trip seats (non-stop and one-stop) planned from the rest of the world to sub-Saharan Africa, for instance all areas below North Africa. While Ethiopian Airlines is predictably the largest airline, we look at the top-10 non-African carriers and the largest markets.

The Top 10 Non-African Airlines To Serve Africa
Air France is the largest non-African airline to sub-Saharan Africa this year. Photo: Air France.

Western Europe is crucial

With over 16.16 million seats (over half of the total), Western Europe to sub-Saharan Africa is all-important. Indeed, this one region has about twice the capacity as the second-largest, the Middle East.

Naturally, the UAE – which is responsible for the bulk of the Middle East capacity – mainly focuses on passengers transiting to Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America. Recently, Qatar Airways said there is huge potential across the continent.

However, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in particular, have also have strong point-to-point (P2P) demand from a good number of African countries. For the UAE, P2P demand is robust from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Somalia. Combined, these seven countries alone had over 1.9 million non-transit passengers in 2019, booking data from OAG Traffic Analyzer reveals.

The Top 10 Non-African Airlines To Serve Africa
Brussels Airlines is the sixth-largest non-African airline to the sub-Sahara this year. It has an expansive network from its Brussels hub, especially focused on Central and Western Africa, but also including the likes of Bujumbura, Entebbe, and Kigali in the East. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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Top-10 sub-Saharan regional markets

Crucial to Western Europe’s dominance is Central and Western Africa, as shown below, because of so many Francophone countries (especially Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroon) and Anglophone nations (notably Nigeria and Ghana).

  1. Central/Western African to Western Europe: 7.81 million round-trip seats
  2. Eastern Africa to Western Europe Africa: 5.90 million
  3. Eastern Africa to the Middle East: 5.53 million
  4. Southern Africa to Western Europe: 2.45 million
  5. Southern Africa to the Middle East: 1.86 million
  6. Central/Western Africa to the Middle East: 1.25 million
  7. Central/Western Africa to North America: 824,000
  8. Eastern Africa to South Asia: 586,000
  9. Eastern Africa to Northeast Asia: 471,000
  10. Eastern Africa to North America: 328,000
The Top 10 Non-African Airlines To Serve Africa
Former colonies often dictate networks to Africa, including notably with Air France and British Airways. Historically, BA used B747-400s on many routes. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Top-10 non-African airlines

Air France is the largest non-African airline to the sub-Sahara this year, analysis of OAG data confirms. It has 34 routes from both Paris CDG (33 routes) and Orly (one). Funnily enough, its sole route from Orly – the 5,802-mile link to Reunion in the Indian Ocean – is the carrier’s thickest sub-Saharan route this year. It is mainly served by high-density B777-300ERs.

  1. Air France: 5.12 million round-trip seats
  2. British Airways: 4.41 million
  3. Emirates: 4.40 million
  4. Qatar Airways: 3.65 million
  5. Turkish Airlines: 3.63 million
  6. Brussels Airlines: 2.63 million
  7. KLM: 1.86 million
  8. Lufthansa: 1.69 million
  9. flydubai: 960,000
  10. Corsair: 958,000
The Top 10 Non-African Airlines To Serve Africa
A mixed fleet, including narrowbodies, is crucial for Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines’ network. Photo: Sergey Korovkin via Wikimedia.

If all of Africa is considered rather than simply sub-Sahara, Air France would still be the largest non-African carrier because of its huge network to Francophone countries in North Africa (Morocco and Algeria).

Emirates would be second and Turkish Airlines third, up from fifth. Simple Flying recently took a good look at Turkish’s Africa operation this year. Saudia would be sixth and Ryanair eighth, the latter from its strong network from and bases in Morocco.

Are you flying to/from Africa this year? Let us know by commenting.