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Travel & Tourism: The Top 5 Biggest Airlines In Sub-Saharan Africa

Updated on February 3, 2016

The Largest Airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa

From Nigeria in the West, South Africa in the South, and Kenya in the East, Africa is truly a beautiful continent. It is far from the dark, dirty, corrupt and poor continent that pervades the public opinion. The beautiful cities, hospitable people and unmatched scenery and wildlife are a testament to this.

Africa is home to some of the biggest cities in the world and these cities attract millions of visitors who are travelling for leisure or business related tasks. But who transports these visitors to African cities? Of course the various airlines that are owned in the continent do this important task of flying passengers to their preferred destination within and outside of the African continent.

In this article, I will list some of the top biggest airlines that operate and are owned in the sub-Saharan region of the African continent. The judgment criteria is based on fleet size, number of flying destinations and the total number of passengers carried by each of the respective airlines.

The Biggest Airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa
The Biggest Airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa

1. South African Airways

Alliance: Star Alliance

Fleet: 56

Destinations: 37

C.E.O: Siza Mzimela

South African Airways is undoubtedly the biggest airline in Sub-Saharan Africa and second in all of Africa after Egypt Air. Founded in 1934, the national carrier of South Africa is headquartered in Oliver Tambo international airport In Johannesburg city.

2. Ethiopian Airlines

Alliance: Star Alliance

Fleet size: 48

Destinations: 80

C.E.O: Tewolde Gebremariam

Flying to over 64 international destinations as well as 16 domestic routes, Ethiopian Airlines is the third biggest airline in Sub-Saharan Africa. The airline was founded in 1945 but commenced its operations a year later in 1946. The Ethiopian National Carrier that is headquartered in Bole international airport is fully owned by the government of Ethiopia and their slogan reads “The New Spirit of Africa."

3. Kenya Airways

Alliance: SkyTeam

Fleet: 37

Destinations: 56

C.E.O: Titus Naikuni

The "Pride of Africa" as is commonly known, Kenya Airways is one of the biggest airlines in Africa as a whole and sub-Saharan Africa in particular. Started 34 years ago in 1977 after the collapse of its predecessor, East African Airways, Kenya Airways is today one of the preferred airlines for travelers of different nationalities and destinations. The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport serves as the base for this airline. Kenya Airways is largely owned by the government of Kenya. The airline also owns 49% stake in Tanzania’s Precision Air and is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most respected brands not only in the East African region but Africa and beyond as well.

4. Arik Air

Alliance: Star Alliance

Fleet: 23

Destinations: 28

C.E.O: Michael Ikhide

Arik Air is by far the largest commercial airline in the West African region of Africa and is also among the biggest in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. The "Wings of Nigeria" as is commonly known is the national carrier of Nigeria headquartered in Murtala Muhammad International Airport in the city of Lagos. The airline serves 28 local, regional and international destinations and even though it may not be as popular as the likes of South African Airways and Kenya Airways but is truly a major airline in Sub-Saharan Africa.

5. Air Mauritius

Alliance: Star Alliance

Fleet: 12

Destinations: 26

Air Mauritius, the flag carrier of Mauritius, is among the largest and well known airlines in Africa. Started way back in the year 1967 and headquartered in Ramgoolam International Airport in Port Louis, Air Mauritius is among the biggest pioneering airlines in Africa. The airline is largely owned the government of Mauritius and flies to over 26 destinations.

Have you traveled on any of the above African Airlines? What was your experience? Do you think that they deserve to be as big and as popular as they are?


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    • Felixedet2000 profile image

      Felixedet2000 6 years ago from The Universe

      Thanks for the information, it is good to let the world know that something is really going on in Africa.