What Is The Biggest Airline In Africa?

Ethiopian Airlines is the biggest airline in Africa. Discovering the largest airline in Africa is like exploring a world of adventure in the skies.

This airline is the king of the clouds, flying more people to more places across the continent than any other.

With a fleet of planes that cover the continent like stars in the sky, it’s the go-to choice for travelers.

Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, this airline makes every journey memorable.

Join us as we look closer at this giant of the African skies, whose wings are wide enough to unite people, one flight at a time.

What is the history of Ethiopian Airlines?

Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, has a rich history that dates back to its establishment in 1945.

The airline was founded on December 21, 1945, and commenced operations on April 8, 1946, initially serving domestic routes before expanding to international flights in 1951.

Over the years, Ethiopian Airlines has grown from a small carrier to Africa’s largest airline in terms of passengers carried, destinations served, fleet size, and revenue.

In the early years, Ethiopian Airlines was assisted by Transcontinental Air Transport and Western Air Express, which later merged into TWA.

The airline’s growth was part of Emperor Haile Selassie I’s modernization efforts for Ethiopia.

In 1965, it became a share company, expanding its reach and capabilities and changing its name from Ethiopian Air Lines to Ethiopian Airlines.

Throughout the decades, Ethiopian Airlines has achieved several milestones and expanded its services globally.

It joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 1959 and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) in 1968.

The airline became a member of the Star Alliance in December 2011, further solidifying its international presence.

The airline’s hub and headquarters are located at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. From there, it operates a network of passenger and cargo destinations worldwide.

Ethiopian Airlines has also established secondary hubs in Togo and Malawi, contributing to its status as a key player in African aviation.

Ethiopian Airlines has been recognized for its resilience and agility, particularly during the COVID-19 global crisis.

It has received numerous awards for its cargo services, including the ‘Best Cargo Airline—Africa’ Award at the Air Cargo News Awards 2020.

The airline has also proactively supported global health initiatives, such as distributing COVID-19 vaccines across the continent.

The airline’s commitment to excellence is evident in its modern fleet and service offerings.

It has continuously invested in its infrastructure, including establishing a passenger-to-freighter conversion site and expanding its cargo terminal for efficient vaccine transportation.

Ethiopian Airlines’ history is marked by its dedication to connecting Africa with the rest of the world, its strategic partnerships, and its role in promoting the continent’s economic and social development through aviation.

Its slogan, ‘The New Spirit of Africa,’ encapsulates the airline’s vision and mission as it continues to soar to new heights.

What Is The Biggest Airline In Africa?

Ethiopian Airlines is the biggest airline in Africa. It is the flag carrier of Ethiopia and has been recognized as the largest airline on the continent in terms of several key operational metrics, including fleet size, destinations served, and passenger traffic.

Ethiopian Airlines was established in 1945 and has grown to become a major player within Africa and on the global aviation stage.

The airline is a member of the Star Alliance, the world’s largest global airline alliance, which provides Ethiopian Airlines passengers with a vast network of destinations through codeshare agreements with other member airlines.

The airline operates a modern and diverse fleet of aircraft, including the latest models, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

This allows passengers to have a more comfortable and eco-friendly flying experience.

Ethiopian Airlines is known for its extensive route network, connecting African cities with destinations in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.

In terms of passenger traffic, Ethiopian Airlines has consistently transported millions of passengers annually, surpassing other African airlines.

This high volume of passenger traffic and its operational success have positioned Ethiopian Airlines as the biggest airline in Africa.

Ethiopian Airlines’ success can be attributed to its strategic growth plans, investment in a modern fleet, and a strong focus on customer service.

The airline’s hub at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is a key gateway for international travel to and from Africa, further solidifying its position as Africa’s largest airline.

This airline’s prominence in Africa is a testament to its commitment to connecting the continent with the rest of the world, providing vital links for commerce, tourism, and cultural exchange.

Ethiopian Airlines plays a crucial role in developing Africa’s aviation industry and is a source of national pride for Ethiopia.

How Many Destinations Does Ethiopian Airlines Serve?

Ethiopian Airlines, the flag carrier of Ethiopia, has a substantial network that spans across the globe.

As of March 2024, Ethiopian Airlines serves 136 international passenger and cargo destinations.

This includes an extensive coverage of 63 African cities, making it the airline with the most destinations on the African continent.

The airline’s reach is not limited to Africa; it connects travelers to cities in 79 countries across all inhabited continents.

The airline operates from its hub at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, facilitating connections between international and domestic destinations.

Its network includes key cities such as Washington D.C., London, Paris, Beijing, and São Paulo.

Ethiopian Airlines is known for its significant role in connecting different parts of Africa with each other and the rest of the world, supporting passenger travel and cargo transport.

How Many Aircraft Does Ethiopian Airlines Have?

Ethiopian Airlines has a diverse and modern collection of aircraft. Their fleet consists of the following:

Long Range Passenger Services

  • 20 Airbus A350-900XWB
  • 19 Boeing B787-8
  • 10 Boeing B787-9
  • 4 Boeing B777-300ER
  • 6 Boeing B777-200LR

Medium Range Passenger Services

  • 20 Boeing B737-800
  • 20 Boeing B737 MAX
  • 6 Boeing B737-700NG

Regional and Domestic Passenger Services

  • 32 Bombardier Q400 (Dash 8-400)

Long-Range Cargo Services

  • 10 Boeing B777-200LRF (Cargo)
  • 3 Boeing B767-300F

Medium Range Cargo Services

  • 4 Boeing B737-800F (Cargo)

This brings the total operating fleet to 154 aircraft.

Additionally, Ethiopian Airlines has placed orders for more aircraft, which include:

Long Range Passenger Services

  • 4 Airbus A350-1000
  • 11 Airbus A350-900
  • 11 Boeing B787-9
  • 8 Boeing B777-9X

Medium Range Passenger Services

  • 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8s

Long-Range Cargo Services

  • 4 Boeing B777-200LRF

The total number of aircraft on order is 72.

Combining both the operating fleet and the orders, Ethiopian Airlines is expanding its capacity significantly, aiming to maintain its status as a leading airline not just in Africa but globally.

The airline’s commitment to modernization and growth is evident in its investment in newer, more efficient aircraft, underscoring its dedication to providing a high-quality service experience for its passengers.

Ethiopian airline

What is the second-largest airline in Africa?

The second largest airline in Africa is Airlink. Previously part of South African Airways, it became an independent brand in November 2020.

Airlink operates a comprehensive network of regional and domestic flights within southern Africa and serves as a crucial link connecting smaller towns with major hubs.

Airlink’s fleet consists of various aircraft, including Embraer regional jets and larger Airbus models, which allow it to offer a balance of frequency and capacity across its network.

The airline’s strategic partnerships and code-share agreements with other carriers extend its reach beyond its direct services, facilitating convenient connections for passengers traveling across the continent.

As a privately owned entity, Airlink has carved out a significant niche in the African aviation market, distinguishing itself from other carriers with its focus on customer service, operational reliability, and a network catering to business and leisure travelers.

Its success in maintaining a robust operation despite the challenges the aviation industry faces has solidified its position as the second-largest airline in Africa by various metrics, including fleet size and number of passengers carried.

Airlink’s growth and operational strategies reflect the dynamic nature of the African aviation sector, where adaptability and customer-centric approaches are key to success.

The airline’s ability to thrive in a competitive market indicates its commitment to providing essential air services that support the region’s economic development and connectivity.

What is the shortest international flight in Africa?

The shortest international flight in Africa is from Tetouan Sania Ramel Airport (TTU) in Morocco to Malaga Airport (AGP) in Spain.

This flight covers just 88 miles (141.6 kilometers) and has a typical flight time of approximately 27 minutes.

It connects two key tourist destinations and is currently served by Ryanair, which operates two weekly flights on this route.

This short hop across the Strait of Gibraltar reflects the close geographical proximity between northern Africa and southern Europe, particularly between Morocco and Spain.

The route is significant for tourism and business, providing travelers with a quick and convenient link.

The operation of such a short international flight underscores the region’s interconnectedness and the importance of aviation in facilitating cross-border movement within this part of the world.

Which Airlines are the most punctual in Africa?

Punctuality in airlines is a critical factor for travelers, and in Africa, certain airlines have distinguished themselves by their on-time performance.

In 2023, the most punctual airlines in Africa were highlighted by their impressive on-time arrival rates.


a South African airline, was among the top performers, with an on-time arrival rate of 92.36%.

This low-cost carrier, which took flight in October 2014, has quickly established a reputation for reliability.

Safair operates a fleet that includes both Boeing 734 classics and B738 NGs, and it managed to maintain a high completion factor of 99.91% with over 55,000 flights tracked.

Kenya Airways

The flag carrier of Kenya also secured a position among the most punctual, with an on-time arrival rate of 71.86%.

Despite the challenges faced by airlines globally, Kenya Airways’ performance in punctuality has been commendable, with a high completion factor and a significant number of flights tracked, indicating a robust operational capacity.

These airlines’ punctuality is measured by their flights arriving within a specific timeframe of their scheduled arrival times.

The consistency in maintaining such punctuality reflects the airlines’ operational efficiency and commitment to customer service.

It’s important to note that these figures are based on comprehensive data analysis, considering various factors like the complexity of operations and the capacity to benefit passengers and airports.

Why are African airlines so expensive?

African airlines are often perceived as expensive due to a combination of factors that impact the cost of air travel within the continent. Here are the key reasons:

High Taxes and Charges on Airlines

African governments impose high tariffs and landing fees on airlines, among the highest in the world. These costs are then passed on to passengers through higher ticket prices.

Low Load Factors

African airlines typically report lower load factors, meaning the number of passengers is often less than the aircraft’s capacity.

This results in a higher cost per passenger to cover the fixed costs of operating a flight.

Low Yield Passengers

The economic situation in many African countries means fewer people can afford premium travel options like first—and business-class travel.

This affects the airlines’ revenue mix and necessitates higher base fares to cover costs.

Fuel and Oil Price Hikes

Fuel costs are a significant part of an airline’s operating expenses. Global fuel price fluctuations often affect African countries, which can lead to increased ticket prices.

Closed Airspaces

Some African countries have not implemented open sky policies, which restrict airlines from other African countries from flying freely over their territories. This can lead to longer, more costly flight paths.

Operational Costs

Airlines in Africa face higher operational costs due to limited fuel access, higher maintenance expenses, and bureaucratic hurdles. These increased costs are often reflected in ticket prices.

How Much Does Ethiopian Airlines Collect In Revenue Every Year?

Ethiopian Airlines, the flag carrier of Ethiopia, has shown remarkable revenue generation over the years.

For the financial year 2021/22, the airline achieved significant revenue, with cargo operations contributing almost half of the Group’s revenue.

The airline transported more than 750,000 tons of cargo, marking a record high for the fiscal year. The number of passengers also increased significantly, reaching close to 9 million.

In the subsequent financial year, Ethiopian Airlines continued its upward trajectory, posting a revenue of USD 5 billion, representing a 79% growth compared to the previous year.

This growth was attributed to the lifting of travel restrictions worldwide, the expansion of the airline’s fleet, the introduction of new routes, and the resumption of flights.

The airline reported even higher revenues for the 2022/23 fiscal year, securing $6.1 billion USD. This marked a 20% year-on-year increase from the previous year’s USD 5 billion.

The consistent increase in revenue highlights Ethiopian Airlines’ resilience and strategic growth, even amidst challenging global conditions.

The airline’s financial success is a testament to its operational efficiency, robust business model, and the strategic direction provided by its executive management.

The revenue figures reflect the airline’s position as a leading carrier in Africa and on the global stage.

Ethiopian Airlines’ ability to adapt and thrive, particularly in the cargo sector, has been a key factor in its financial performance.

What Are The Factors That Contributed To Ethiopian Airlines’ Growth?

Several factors have contributed to the growth of Ethiopian Airlines, including:

  • Strategic Location: Ethiopian Airlines benefits from its strategic location in Addis Ababa, ideally situated for connecting flights between Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
  • Fleet Expansion: The airline has continuously expanded and modernized its fleet, incorporating the latest aircraft technology to improve efficiency and passenger experience.
  • Diversified Services: Beyond passenger transport, Ethiopian Airlines has diversified into cargo, MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) services, aviation training, and catering, contributing to its revenue streams.
  • Strong Management: The airline’s management has been pivotal in implementing a successful long-term strategic plan, focusing on sustainability and profitability.
  • Alliances and Partnerships: Membership in the Star Alliance and codeshare agreements with other airlines have expanded Ethiopian Airlines’ global reach.
  • Investment in Infrastructure: Significant investment in aviation infrastructure, including a new cargo terminal and aviation academy, has bolstered its operational capabilities.
  • Adaptability: The airline has shown remarkable adaptability, for instance, by converting passenger planes to cargo during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet the increased demand for air freight.

How many employees does Ethiopian Airlines have?

As of November 2023, Ethiopian Airlines had approximately 18,000 employees. This number reflects the airline’s status as a major regional employer and its significant operational scale.

Ethiopian Airlines’ staff includes a wide range of professionals, from pilots and cabin crew to ground staff, engineers, and administrative personnel, all of whom contribute to the airline’s operations and growth.

What are some of Ethiopian Airlines’ plans?

Ethiopian Airlines has outlined ambitious plans for the future under its “Vision 2035” strategy. The airline aims to double its number of destinations nearly.

To support this expansion, Ethiopian Airlines plans to double its fleet from 140 to 271 aircraft. The goal is to carry 65 million passengers and 3 million tons of cargo and generate $25 billion USD in revenue by 2035.

The airline is evaluating new aircraft models that would suit its future operational needs, including narrowbody aircraft like the Airbus A220 and Embraer 195 E2 to bridge the capacity gap between its Boeing 737 and De Havilland Dash 8-400 aircraft.

Additionally, Ethiopian Airlines is considering adding more freighter aircraft to support its cargo operations, which may include the A350F model.

Ethiopian Airlines focuses on harmonizing various aircraft types to maintain a cost-effective fleet, from regional planes seating 70 passengers to widebody jets seating up to 300.

This strategic fleet expansion is part of the airline’s broader goal to become one of the top 20 most competitive and leading aviation groups in the world, providing a range of services, including passenger and cargo transport, aviation training, airport management, ground services, MRO, aerospace manufacturing, and travel and tourism services.

How Does Ethiopian Airlines Contribute To The Economic Development Of Africa?

Ethiopian Airlines plays a significant role in the economic development of Africa through various channels:

  • Air Transport Growth

As a leading airline in Africa, Ethiopian Airlines facilitates the growth of air transport, which is essential for economic development.

The airline’s extensive network promotes regional and international trade, tourism, and investment.

  • Employment Creation

Ethiopian Airlines is a major regional employer with a substantial workforce that provides direct and indirect job opportunities.

  • Infrastructure Development

The airline’s investment in aviation infrastructure, such as airports and maintenance facilities, boosts local economies and supports the aviation industry’s growth.

  • Training and Skills Development

Ethiopian Airlines contributes to human capital development through its Aviation Academy by training pilots, engineers, and other aviation professionals.

  • Cargo Services

The airline’s cargo division is crucial in transporting goods, supporting businesses, and enabling access to global markets.

  • Partnerships

Ethiopian Airlines partners with other African airlines to enhance connectivity and support the development of the continent’s aviation sector.

  • Sustainability Initiatives

The airline is involved in various sustainability initiatives that aim to reduce environmental impact and promote sustainable practices within the industry.

What are some of the challenges Ethiopian Airlines and other African airlines face?

Ethiopian Airlines and other African airlines face various challenges that impact their operations and growth. Some of these challenges include:

  • Sourcing Parts and Staying Competitive: With global inflation and supply chain issues, sourcing aircraft parts can be difficult, affecting maintenance schedules and operational efficiency.
  • Rising Operational Costs: The cost of aviation fuel, security, and insurance are significant factors that can affect profitability.
  • Market Access and Liberalization: Restrictions on traffic rights and the slow liberalization of air transport in Africa can limit market access and expansion opportunities.
  • Infrastructure: Many parts of Africa have poor aviation infrastructure, hindering operational capabilities and growth.
  • Currency Devaluation: The devaluation of currencies in some African countries can impact revenue and cost management.
  • Natural Disasters and Regional Instability: These can disrupt operations and lead to flight cancellations or rerouting, affecting the airline’s reliability and financial performance.
  • Competition: African airlines face increasing competition from external carriers, which often have more resources and can offer more competitive fares.
  • High Costs and Market Protectionism: High operating costs and market protectionism can also pose challenges, limiting African airlines’ ability to expand and compete globally.

How Can African Countries Work Together To Create A More Robust And Competitive Aviation Industry?

African countries can work together to create a more robust and competitive aviation industry by focusing on the following strategies:

  • Implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM): This initiative aims to liberalize air transport in Africa, increase connectivity, and make air travel more affordable.
  • Improving Safety Standards: Ensuring airlines adhere to international safety standards can boost passenger confidence and attract more business.
  • Investing in Infrastructure: Upgrading airports and navigation systems can enhance operational efficiency and accommodate more flights.
  • Reducing Taxes and Fees: Lowering taxes and fees can reduce airlines’ operational costs and passengers’ fares.
  • Enhancing Skills and Training: Developing a skilled workforce through education and training programs can support industry growth.
  • Promoting Regional Cooperation: Encouraging cooperation between African airlines can lead to shared services and reduced costs.
  • Adopting Global Standards: Aligning with global aviation standards can help integrate African airlines into the wider global network.
  • Fostering Public-Private Partnerships: Collaborations between governments and private entities can lead to investment and innovation in the aviation sector.


Ethiopian Airlines emerges as the undisputed champion of African aviation. With an extensive network, a modern fleet, and a commitment to growth, it has cemented its position as the continent’s biggest airline. 

This giant of the African skies connects people and places, playing a crucial role in the region’s economic development.

As Ethiopian Airlines continues to soar to new heights, it serves as a beacon of hope for a more robust and interconnected African aviation industry.

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