Africa still is a challenging continent when it comes to the airline market. As a result, African airlines are often underrepresented in many rankings. With the second part of our “Spotlight Series,” we change that and take a very close view of the African market: The Top 10 Biggest African Airlines by fleet size.

Top 10 Biggest African Airlines

The “Spotlight Series” is a series of blogs that presents airline and airport rankings for specific regions. The Top 10 Biggest African Airlines represents the second edition of the “Spotlight Series.” Here the first edition: Top 10 Biggest Asian Airlines by Fleet Size.

Top 10 Biggest African Airlines

There are many metrics to define the world’s biggest airlines. With some of our latest rankings, we’ve analyzed the world’s airlines according to their safety performanceproduct quality, or capacity. Today, we take a look at the fleet size. However, we move away from global statistics and take an African deep dive. Moreover, and contrary to many other rankings, we incorporated Corona-related reductions. Therefore, our ranking contains the most up-to-date fleet figures.

Top 10 Biggest African Airlines — Key Take-Aways

If you don’t have time to go through the complete ranking, we put together some key takeaways about the ten biggest African airlines.

Only one African airline operates more than 100 aircraft
Ethiopian Airlines is the only African airline that operates a fleet of more than 100 aircraft. The rest of Africa’s biggest airlines operate much smaller fleets.

Ethiopian Airlines is the only African airline among the world’s top 50
When looking at the world’s biggest airline ranking (according to fleet size), Ethiopian Airlines is the only carrier that ranks among the top 50. Most of the African carriers are not even listed in the top 100.

Top 10 Biggest African Airlines

#10 — South African Airways

Airline Ranking
South African Airways once operated a fleet of more than 70 aircraft. However, the airline has been struggling to survive since 2012. As a result, the airline has been in financial difficulties in the last decade. Furthermore, due to COVID-19, South African Airways massively reduced its fleet to twelve Airbus. Therefore, the airline ranks 10th among the list of African’s biggest airlines.

Biggest African Airlines — South African Airways

Airline Information
South African Airways is the state-owned flag carrier of South Africa. The airline was founded in 1934 and operated out of its hub in Johannesburg. The airline lists 21 destinations. However, all of them are currently suspended. Moreover, and despite massive financial difficulties, the airline is still a member of the Star Alliance.

By Adam Moreira (AEMoreira042281) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

#9 — Air Mauritius

Airline Ranking
At position nine of the biggest African airlines, we have Air Mauritius. However, from a global perspective, Air Mauritius operates a rather small fleet of 13 aircraft — mainly Airbus and ATR. Therefore, Air Mauritius is not listed among the world’s top 50 biggest airlines due to its rather small fleet.

Biggest African Airlines —  Air Mauritius

Airline Information
Air Mauritius is the flag carrier of Mauritius. The airline was founded in 1967 and is based in Port Louis. In pre-COVID times, the airline transported 1.7 million passengers. At the moment, Air Mauritius operates flights to 22 destinations.

By John Taggart from Claydon Banbury, Oxfordshire – 3B-NBP 12112017LHR, CC BY-SA 2.0

#8 — Libyan Airlines

Airline Ranking
With just one aircraft more than Air Mauritius, Libyan Airlines ranks 8th among the list of the biggest African airlines. Its fleet consists of nine Airbus, one ATR 42-500, and four Bombardier CRJ. Similar to Air Mauritius, the airline does not rank among the world’s biggest airlines.

Biggest African Airlines — Libyan Airlines

Airline Background
Libyan Airlines is the flag carrier of Libya. The airline was founded in 1964 and operated out of its hub in Tripolis. However, due to the Libyan civil war, the airline has hardly operated flights. Moreover, the amount of information in terms of destinations about the airline is minimal.

By Paul Spijkers

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#7 — Arik Air

Airline Ranking
Nigeria’s Arik Air is the first airline of the ranking with a fleet size beyond 20 aircraft. In fact, Arik Air operates a mixed fleet of Boeing, Bombardier, and De Havilland. Overall the number of aircraft sums up to 21. As a result, Arik Air is the 7th largest African airline. However, the airline does not rank among the world’s top 50 biggest airlines.

Biggest African Airlines —  Arik Air

Airline Background
Arik Air is a Nigerian airline with its headquarters in Ikeja (Lagos State). The rather young airline was founded in 2006. The airline operates a network of 16 destinations — mainly regional and mid-haul destinations in Africa.

By Biggerben – https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/7067360, CC BY-SA 3.0

#6 — Tunisair

Airline Ranking
Tunisair ranks 6th among the biggest African airline. The Tunisian airline operates a fleet of 22 Airbus and 7 Boeing — summing up to an overall fleet size of 29. However, and similar to most airlines among this ranking, Tunisair does not rank among the world’s top 50 biggest airlines.

Biggest African Airlines —  Tunisair

Airline Background
Tunisair is the national airline of Tunisia and the country’s biggest carrier. The airline was founded in 1949 and is headquartered in Tunis. The airline operates an extensive network to more than 100 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

By Gerry Stegmeier

Top 10 Biggest African Airlines: Position 5 – 1

#5 — Kenya Airways

Airline Ranking
Kenya Airways kicks off the list of the Top 5 African airlines. The airline operates a considerable fleet of 40 aircraft consisting of Boeing and Embraer. However, based on the fleet size, the airline does not rank among the world’s top 50 biggest airlines.

Biggest African Airlines — Kenya Airways

Airline Background
Kenya Airways is the flag carrier of Kenya. The airline was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in Nairobi. Kenya Airways is part of the SkyTeam airline alliance. In pre-COVID times, the carrier operated flights to more than 50 destinations in 40 countries.

By Alf van Beem – Own work, Public Domain

#4 — Air Algérie

Airline Ranking
Position four of the biggest African airline goes to Air Algérie. The airline operates a mixed fleet of ATR, Airbus, Boeing, and Lockheed aircraft. Overall, the fleet size sums up to 56 aircraft. Nevertheless, based on the fleet size, the airline ranks among the world’s top 50 biggest airlines.

Biggest African Airlines —  Air Algerie

Airline Background
Air Algérie is the national airline of Algeria. The airline was founded in 1947 and is headquartered in Algiers. The airline plans to become part of an airline alliance — either SkyTeam or StarAlliance. Out of its hub in Algiers, the airline operates flights to 75 destinations — mainly Africa, Europe, and North America.

By Andre Wadman – http://www.airliners.net/photo/Air-Algerie/Boeing-737-8D6/2662561/L/, GFDL 1.2

#3 — Royal Air Maroc

Airline Ranking
Based on a fleet size of 59 aircraft, Royal Air Maroc is Africa’s third-largest airline in terms of the number of aircraft. The airline operates a mixed fleet of ATR72, Boeing, and some Embraer.

Biggest African Airlines —  Royal Air Maroc

Airline Background
Royal Air Maroc (RAM) is the national carrier of Morocco and the country’s largest airline. The airline was founded in 1957 and is headquartered in Casablanca. RAM joined the Oneworld airline alliance in 2020. The carrier operates an extensive network to more than 100 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe, North & South America.

By Adam Moreira (AEMoreira042281) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

#2 — Egyptair

Airline Ranking
With ten more aircraft than Royal Air Maroc, Egyptair wins the silver medal as the second-largest African airline. Egyptair operates a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. However, even as Africa’s second-biggest airline, Egyptair does not rank among the world’s 50 biggest airlines.

Biggest African Airlines — Egyptair

Airline Background
Egyptair is the state-owned flag carrier and biggest airline of Egypt. the airline was founded in 1933 and is headquartered in Cairo. Egyptair is a member of the StarAllican airline alliance. As of June 2021, the carrier operates flights to 87 destinations in 54 countries — mainly Africa, Europe, and North America.

By Paul Spijkers

#1 — Ethiopian Airlines

Airline Ranking
And here’s the winner and Africa’s biggest airline: Ethiopian Airlines. The Ethiopian carrier operates almost twice as many aircraft, the Egyptair on rank two. In addition, Ethiopian Airlines operates a mixed fleet of Airbus, Boeing, and De Havilland Dash. With an overall fleet size of 128, Ethiopian Airlines is the only African airline that ranks on the list of the world’s top 50 biggest airlines (position 41).

Biggest African Airlines —  Ethiopian Airlines

Airline Background
Ethiopian Airlines is the state-owned flag carrier of Ethiopia. The airline was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in Addis Ababa. The airline is part of the StarAlliance. Ethiopian serves a network of 125 passenger destinations—20 of them domestic—and 44 freighter destinations. Besides fleet size, Ethiopian is Africa’s largest airline regarding passengers carried, destinations served, and revenue. Ethiopian is also the world’s 4th largest airline by the number of countries served.

By Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

Biggest African Airlines — What’s Your Opinion?

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Benjamin is a content-maniac, music-lover, aviation-enthusiast, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions to change the way airlines, airports, and aviators use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry and working with renowned airlines + airports worldwide.

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