The 5 Best Airlines in Africa

The 5 best airlines in Africa can be as contentious a topic as airlines in Africa in general. Some people are afraid to fly airlines in Africa period. That is obviously because of their own ignorance and fear but not all the fears are self conjured. Many African airlines do not have good safety records and many are not sanctioned to fly anywhere outside of Africa or even their own country. However, there are some airlines that have pretty good International reputations and several have even become full members of global airline alliances.

Now keep in mind, I write this as someone who has flown dozens and dozens of African airlines (good, bad and awful) and has traveled to every country in Africa. These are the 5 best airlines in Africa.

1. South African Airways
South African Airways, South African, SAA, FLYSAA, Best Airline in Africa, African Airlines, Africa
South African Airways is the clear number one airline on the African continent. It is the shining star that brings Africa to the world. South African has direct flights to five other continents and a great hub at Johannesburg Airport. South African is Africa’s world-class airline and you should expect what you’d expect from any world-class airline.
South African Airways, South African, SAA, FLYSAA, Best Airline in Africa, African Airlines, Africa
South African Airways is a full member of the Star Alliance and has direct flights from New York, London, Dubai, Sydney, Sao Paolo and Beijing. This is what keeps the South African economy going-the accessibility of the world. The only drawback with South African Airways is it is far from just about everywhere. But the same can be said for Australia and they seem to manage pretty well!

2. Egypt Air
Egypt Air, EgyptAir, Egypt, Cairo, 5 best airlines in Africa, Africa, airline, travel
Egypt Air has transformed itself over the past 10 years unlike any airline in the world in my view. After a terrible crash in early 2004, Egypt Air has rebounded to become a global player in Africa and the Middle East. They have improved their planes, routes and they have even become a full member of the Star Alliance. I have flown them several times over the past few years via their Cairo hub and they have always been pretty good.
Egypt Air, EgyptAir, Egypt, Cairo, 5 best airlines in Africa, Africa, airline, travel
Their lounges are OK and to me the biggest drawback is the fact that you always have to take a bus from the airport in Cairo to the plane. They never park at the gate and I hate that. On a connection, you have to do it twice but Egypt Air often has very cheap fares so you make due. Just as Egypt Air has done in improving themselves.

3. Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian, Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, airlines, Africa, Star Alliance
Ethiopian Airlines is secretly one of my favorite airlines. Not because they are so great but because of where they are located. I love Ethiopia and their hub city of Addis Ababa and have flown there and through many times. Ethiopian Airlines itself is very good for African standards but not quite up to par with South African or even Egypt Air but is 100% in the 5 best airlines in Africa.
Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian, Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, airlines, Africa, Star Alliance
Ethiopian Airlines, a full Star Alliance member, has a great route map within Africa and the Middle East. They even have a direct flight from Addis Ababa to Washington DC and London. That said, there are often very good deals around Africa and the Middle East if you go through Addis so keep an eye out. Just remember the planes aren’t that great as many are old and not well kept. However, the service is pretty good and they’ll get you to some places many airlines can’t take you.

4. Kenya Airways
Kenya Airways, Kenya, Nairobi, Sky Team
Kenya Airways is a good airline for Africa. It is the flagship carrier of the nation of Kenya and has its hub in Nairobi. It has become a full member of Sky Team and is the only African airline with this distinction. The planes are not bad and many are quite new. The service is OK and the airline lounges in Nairobi are very poor for a global airline standard.
Kenya Airways, Kenya, Nairobi, Sky Team
The biggest issue for me with Kenya Airways is that Nairobi Airport is terrible. It is over crowded, old and planes are often delayed. Literally when I walk through the airport, the place is littered with people sleeping on the floor in the narrow dark hallways. So while the planes themselves are pretty good, the overall experience is not my favorite. But again, Kenya Airways definitely belongs in the 5 best airlines in Africa.

5. Royal Air Maroc
Royal Air Maroc, RAM, Morocco, Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc barely made this list as the fifth airline. In my view, the top 4 are easy to pick but the fifth best airline in Africa is basically a toss up between a bunch of OK airlines. To me, Royal Air Maroc edged out Air Mauritius, Tunisair and Air Algerie because of its connections to Europe and the US.
Royal Air Maroc, RAM, Morocco, Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc is good for domestic destinations within Morocco but the flight times are often in the middle of the night and you almost always have to connect through their hub in Casablanca and almost always for several hours. This is really annoying to me. Also, the customer service I’ve experienced with them is not very good, nor are their lounges. Royal Air Maroc or RAM may be in my top 5 airlines in Africa list but it’s definitely not my favorite.

Comments

  1. Katherine says:

    RAM is absolutely terrible. I can’t believe you included them.

  2. I haven’t been to enough places in Africa nor have I flown enough airlines to disagree with you but without having flown them all, these would be the picks I would make too solely based on reputation and popularity.

  3. Anshuman says:

    Didn’t Ethiopian also recently have a crash?

    • They did sadly in 2010 I think it was…crashes are so rare but as we all know, they happen. It doesn’t stop us from flying American Airlines or Air France or others…

  4. Nick Gibbins says:

    Hahaha Lee, I like the flight simulator plane pictures :)

  5. I liked Precision Air a lot. I flew them around Tanzania and Kenya and to the islands like Zanzibar

    • Good call Edward…I really liked them too! My friend and I took them around those countries as well and took it to Kilimanjaro Airport and I think out to Zanzibar and to Mombasa…it is regional I believe but very good from what I recall…again for Africa

  6. Hey Lee, great list and I couldn’t agree more although I’d probably put Kenya ahead of Ethiopian. I’ve had good and bad with both but got stuck in Addis for 2 days once because of a faulty plane and they simply wouldn’t just use another plane. Like you, I like Addis but not when I am trying to get somewhere else.

    • Hey Rachel, ya I could have gone either way but have had less bad experiences with Ethiopian then Kenya and I much prefer Addis to Nairobi, both city and airport in general so I went that order.

  7. Lee, good list and South African is number one I agree but where is Air Burkina? I flew them quite a bit and loved them…never had any issues at all

    • Wow that’s a random one. I did randomly fly them between Pointe Noire and Libreville I believe it was and they were fine…it was one of those 4am flights that make no sense to anybody so I slept most of it but I don’t recall anything bad happening!

  8. Interesting list/ topic. I flew Egypt Air in business last August from New York to Cairo and found the seats to be more comfortable than Singapore Air (we then flew Cairo to Singapore). However the service on Egypt Air was pretty crappy . Kenya Air was decent but the airport in Nairobi is one of the worst that I’ve ever been to. I found Air Namibia to be pretty decent but I only flew a short flight from Windhoek to Capetown.

    • I agree with everything you said there except for Egypt Air business better than Singapore-I strongly disagree on that one and on service it’s no question…I also only flew Air Namibia Windhoek to Cape Town and found it fine but average…definitely better than TAAG Angola! haha

  9. LOL- I would never say that Egypt Air was better than Singapore! I just found the seats to be more comfortable. Egypt Air went completely flat, Singapore’s didn’t which made the seats not the most comfortable.

  10. I’m surprised RAM has gone down hill so badly. It is many years since i flew them but the transatlantic flight at that time was great. I agree on Daalo being near the bottom of the list. Once out of Hargeysa they fired up the engines and in spite of a lot of noise the plane wouldn’t go anywhere. One of the Russian flight crew jumped out, took the chocks out from the wheels, threw them into the plane and got back in. They tested the engines, but every time they cut power back to idle the right engine quit. To solve this the pilot shoved the throttles to full and left them there to taxi, take off and for the duration of the flight to Addis Ababa. I have a number of flights coming up on Air Sudan in November – I’ll let you know. I think they have a 737 and an A320.

    • Dan, thanks a lot for the comment and yes Daallo is the single worst airline in Africa and in fact the world. I have only flown Air Sudan once and it was forgettable but not awful. I haven’t flown RAM since 2007 myself but I flew it like 10 times that year and each was more annoying than the prior and all those layovers in Casablanca drove me nuts. The planes themselves are fine, it’s more the service and schedule that drew my ire.

  11. I think air Seychelles should get honorable mention

  12. Can’t believe you forgot Precision Air!

  13. ha ha ha ha it is nice, but Ethiopian airline must over Egypt airline

  14. Hi Lee

    I fly a lot on the African continent & agree – good list! I would however add SA Express and SA Airlink right at the top. Whilst “regional” (and often confused with SAA) they are separate airlines and actually cover a lot of terrain.They are even a class above good old SAA in terms of service as far as I am concerned.

    Spot on about Jhb International (OR Tambo) too – and at least Nairobi Airport has now burned down haha

  15. Aguinaldo Mota says:

    I have flew with TAAG and Air Namibia and I have to agree that Air Namibia beats my country’s carrier ( TAAG ) , but TAAG is growing faster and they will be on top 5 of the best African carriers. I lived in Windhoek for 6 years and I have been flying with both many times. Air Namibia : flights on time, friendly flight attendants and safe to fly, but TAAG is safe to fly with and this new management is working so hard that we all even see the changes and they main problem is been the lots of delayed flights because otherwise TAAG is safe to fly….. Let’s not forget that many African carriers have less number of accidents than many majors airlines….. We can’t compare the number of the fleets but there is the main word ( SAFETY )….

  16. Aguinaldo Mota says:

    I also forgot to mention that I also flew SAA from Johannesburg to Cape Town to Cape Verde and with the final destination to Atlanta USA where I present live in. It was a 747-400 and it was comfortable. Out of African carriers Md-80 delta airlines, A319 frontier airlines, 737-800 American Airlines, 737-700 south west airlines, A330-300 and A340-300 Lufthansa , 777 British airways . Delta Md80 was not comfortable seat were too small. The rest was good….

  17. zeyd bereket says:

    hey lee!Ethiopian airline is the best airline in africa!and it’s confortabel & safe!i flew with s.african,egipt&kenyan airlines,it means i know them!so it must be #1!!Ethiopan another name is Abisiniya!Ethiopia have high standard 16 Local airportes and 5 law standard airportes!MOSTLY Addis ababa’s airport is very very nice!it build eropean standard!it doesn’t compet with african airports!at this year the airport buys 43 letest boinges,cargos and airbuses!!!

  18. Asmare Melesse says:

    Lee ! Even though i didint have adequate info about other airways in Africa, it is worth mentioning that Ethiopian Airline is the 1st African Airline and 2nd from the world next to Japan to buy dream-liner planes from Boeing. The airline is growing very rapidly interns of its flight coverage (across the world) and # of modern planes etc. So i agree that it should stand among the best five in Africa.

  19. I wish to make these Airlines look more better by advertising myself for a job vacancy as Cabin Appearance Safety Officer presently working with Qatar Airways.
    If i can have an opportunity to work in any of these airlines i will not hesitate.

    Here in Qatar we know of Ethiopian airways as the best due to her good services to client which does not exclude cabin appearance maintenance services.

  20. hey lee belive me for me the firest is ethiopiam and south and kenyan. Even i have never flew with these airlines.

    lol

  21. Ethiopian is the 2nd for me

  22. I agree with you guys and best airline is Ethiopian airlines.

  23. kosgei says:

    so if you fly Kenya airways from Cairo to Joberg will it then be the best? because you guys are downgrading Kenya airways because of the airport. Kenya airways is an airline, the airport is under different management.

  24. your research has no scientific proof and no data is available.kenya and ethiopia are perenial winners of africa awards for best airlines based on stats.

  25. I agree that Ethiopia is the best but to me Kenya is second

  26. Johnsson says:

    I have been to many destination………..i have seen all………i loved Ethiopian …….i love to stay in Addis ….safest city in my visit to any African city

  27. I have to Agree with the List especially on Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways even won an Award on punctuality Rankings.

  28. Indeed Ethiopian Air Line is the Best and has more destinations in Africa compared to other African
    airlines.

  29. Honestly speaking though i haven’t seen & served by all the airlines i followed and hear international updated news beyond that for me Ethiopian airlines is the first in Africa let me prove that Ethiopian Airlines is the first 787dream liner owner even the second from the World, the largest number of destination over the glob, admirable hospitality & a Star-aliens member too. so Ethiopian airlines is the 1st in Africa.

  30. Elizaphan Samuel says:

    Personally I disagree about the mentioned situation in the Nairobi The Jomo Kenyatta international airport which is the best and clean airport without delay in Africa it is the best growing airport. Since Kenya Ports Authority are longing to open and construct more airports in africa

  31. Elizaphan Samuel says:

    I like the ranking for The Kenya airways

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