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.

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  1. Katherine says

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

    • Haha, ya they’re not my favorite either but something had to be 5th! Like I said 1-4 are easy in my view….#5 is tough.

      • Am really amazed that you can confidently say of Kenya Airways: ‘Literally when I walk through the airport, the place is littered with people sleeping on the floor in the narrow dark hallways’.Honestly, where do we have ‘dark alleys’ with ‘people sleeping on the floor;. Surely, I believe giving honest opinion is better than writing something just to tickle readers.

        • i don’t know how it works in Kenyan work but usually the airline has nothing to do with the airport management.

        • May be he flew Kenya airways in his dreams surely have flow both KQ and SAA and there is no way you can compare SAA to KQ they dont give meals and the cabin crews of SAA are very mean as if they think being on their aircraft they are doing you a favour.

          • Perhaps you are Kenyan or an Ethiopian.. jealous.. some european airlines are worse with mean people, I guarantee you

          • Actually, I’ve flown both Kenya Airways and SAA. Kenya Airways did not serve a meal or any refreshments on the Nairobi to Lilongwe leg and, in fact, made an unscheduled stop in Harare, prolonging what had been a very long journey from the UK.
            Conversely, SAA, who had listed the Johannesburg to Lilongwe leg as meal-free, surprised us by serving us a full lunch and even upgraded us to Business Class when the seat allocations went awry.
            Our cabin crews on the two SAA trips were friendly and accommodating. The Kenyan staff were average, made no attempt to address my non-functioning IFE report and made themselves scarce on the Nairobi to Lilongwe (via Harare!) flight. That said, the pilots were engaging and kind enough to point out famous cities as we flew through European airspace.
            The first SAA flight was on a Star Alliance aircraft, which, had it not been for the generous upgrade (meal as well!), would have been cramped and uncomfortable. The return journey was on one of their own craft, which was spacious, had good leg room and plush comfortable leather seats. It was all-in-all a more luxurious aircraft.
            I would probably fly both carriers again but am not in a hurry to fly with Kenya Airways.

        • The Jomo Kenyatta Airport post 2013 fire seems bigger and better (and they are still expanding and improving) and apparently they are not yet done with the renovations and reconstruction. I have to say I would take Jomo Kenyatta any day over let’s say Entebbe International…

        • I agree with Kimani, there is a new world class terminal at Jommo Kenyatta Airport

      • Mary Nganga says

        Lee Abbamonte
        Even if you travel a lot, you lied about the Airport in Nairobi, which is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. There no sleeping alleys as you would have people think. Not at the airport. Nairobi as a city just like New York, Johannesburg, London or any other city you might find street people. But not at the airport.
        Secondly you are not an IATA inspector even to know how to rate African airlines or any other airlines for that matter. Best airlines are based first and foremost by cleanliness, food, service, punctuality, cabin crew and ground passenger handling service, interline and transfer connections whether good and without passengers missing connections and the list goes on. Stop lying and go on travelling.

      • Mary Nganga says

        In the rating of good or best airlines, air safety is top on the list.

  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. 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.

  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!!!

    • Clearly you’ve never been to Johannesburg international airport and you’ve not flown SAA. Personally I’d place SAA on top in terms of safety record (it’s the oldest airline in Africa and is mostly staffed by ex-air Force senior pilots and it shows. The food is above average but can be a joy on occasion. The cabin staff is professional and happy to serve.)followed by Air Mauritius. Their 330 is very comfortable and has lie flat chairs in business. Kenya is ok except for that terrible airport. Ethiopia is honestly not worth the asking price. Terrible service. Crap food and sully cabin crew. No smiles no nothing just long faces. At least they’re pretty! Egyptian is sadly beset by security issues which have nothing to do with the abilities of the crew. But I’d avoid it. SA Express is great but the planes are tiny. Frankly I find African airports outside South Africa a challenge. Entebbe with its crazy security measures that has every passenger disembarking from their cars at a security checkpoint about a kilometer from the airport is the pits! And you’ve to walk in the rain whilst car is being searched and driven across the security gate! Terrible experience! Accra is tired and inefficient and mosquitoes are the first unpleasantry. Lagos is a nightmare and the traffic is lunatic! Why don’t they build proper highways? The rest are just not worth any mention.

  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.


  21. Ethiopian is the 2nd for me

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

  23. 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

  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

  32. Royal air maroc have the most destinations most planes and the newest planes check Wikipedia they have won skytrax best airline in africa 2014 royal air maroc is definetly african best airliner

  33. Listen I flew Kenya Airways from Paris to Nairobi with Richard Brandson COO and President of Virgin Air. It was such a great experience ever because I have flown Ethiopian and South African before but trust me this was A+. ………With their new 787 dreamliners,they’re really the Pride of Africa. Jomokenyatta international Airport was rebuilt and now shines than before. Kenya airways should be the best airline in Africa.

  34. Listone Koech says

    Foe I totally agree with you. Kenya airways has a new fleet of B 787 dreamliners and the Airport has opened up new terminals which are now expanded to allow for more passengers.Besides, theyve got quite a number of female pilots and one of them is the first lady captain of a B787 dreamliner in Africa.I suggest Mr Lee you should visit JKIA once more and trust me u will change your mind.

  35. Glad to see Ethiopian airlines in your list. thanks

  36. If you visit Kenya now i promise you’ll be impressed. Following a fire tragedy at the airport (JKIA) the whole thing was re-done, with new world standard terminals. kenya is also getting direct flights to USA… which will be one of the very few in the continent… its also acquiring new Boeings… yuh… things are looking good now. #ProudlyKenyan

  37. suzan tesfaye says

    Ethiopian airlines is the best thank you Lee!

  38. I am impressed that the African aviation is improving,i would rate the airlines as follows,i have flown Ethiopian air from Frankfruit to Lome,the flight was more than 18hours late,my bag was lost since and the flights that i made later on to Louanda ,Bangkok and Bujumbura the earliest arrived 25mins late,i flew Southafrican air from Durban to Nairobi and my personal items were stolen from my bag,i was charged USD 450 for missing a domestic flight even though i had checked in online and arrived in Durban 40mins to departure,new aircrafts but poorest service,Egypt air from Bangkok via cairo to Nairobi all flights were took 3days for a 15hour flight.precision from zanzibar to mtwara via dar was awesome,kenya airways from seychelles to Dubai was awesome though the flight from seychelles was abit old.air mauritius from reunion to Nairobi was also fine and abit late as usual,never flown TAAG before,neither have i flown airmaroc,flew african express from Hargeisa to Nairobi and was suprised that the flight was on time,save for the noise and the shaky cabin,air mozambique is the worst airline,no customer service at all.flew it from nampula to maputo then in veiw of all that my rankings would be as follows
    1.Precision air
    2.Kenya Airways
    4.Egypt Air.
    5.South African airways

  39. I am surprised that EgyptAir is #2.I flew business class CAI-JNB, service and seats were pretty crappy,plus they let infants fly in business,which ruined my sleep.

  40. Gordin Malaba says

    I think currently the top spot belongs to Ethiopian airlines, They are the first African air liner, and the only one to own the latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner! And they have in their order 10 more, plus the forth coming Airbus A350! As for JKIA in Kenya, I agree, been there a couple of times, though I never saw anyone sleeping in corridors lol. But I hear it has undergone some renovations!

  41. Ethiopian airlines is definitely better than comfort in Egypt air and more in quality

  42. I am sorry about SIRAMESH’s idea , but to tell you frankly Ethiopian airline is the greatest airline and ambassador of Africa with it’s comfort and hospitality ,it is completely at change with its fastest growth economy of abisinea /Ethiopia /so I invite you to enjoy the airline. 10Q

  43. frank rispin says

    Your comment about the age of Ethiopians fleet is way out of date now. They have the youngest fleet of 787s and 777s in Africa.

  44. for sure i agree with you people, but remember kenya airways now has the best and new planes in Africa so i think it’s suppose to be no 2 after south africa


  46. I do agree with your ranking, one thing what I’d like to tell Ethiopian Airline Officers to work hard so as to improve their current status, to have world class service.

  47. Hi is the barbaric Zulu’s ? do they have an airline in south Africa those who burn people live and gather to watch the sufferings of another human being like they are watching football.

  48. I think it will be better that you take both flights i.e Kenya Airways and Ethiopia Airlines for you to compare them. I flew with both Airlines and I have to say that Kenya Airways is the best in Africa. Talking about JKIA I don’t really know which hallways are being talked about, the Airport is just the best.

  49. you got trolled

  50. mulaw kebede says

    Ethiopian Airline is z best in Africa

  51. South African Airways is only there due to a government tap is constantly open. They have no clue what so ever what customer service is about. I can tell, they managed to destroy (read shred) my luggage twice. That was several months ago (add getting lost as well), yet they refuse to refund damage and lost items…(and they respond on emails sent 5 months later with an…apology). Their partner Etihad is equally useless when it comes to customer service!

  52. dont louph at me.eritrean airline is my best,,

  53. Hi guys!
    We have to appreciate all of them. We Africans are in emerging economy and we could not compered the African services to other European countries. The technologies may come from them but not with services. Therefore, we Africans should works on empowering our citizen to deliver world class services.

  54. Full Disclosure: I am an Ethiopian-American

    I came upon this article by accident. In addition to having flown many airlines to many destinations over a span of 45 years, I have a genuine interest in the airline industry. I hope that I have learned a few a few things along the way.

    For those of us who are mere travelers, we can only offer our 2 cents based on our experiences which must be considered subjective. On the other hand, people like Mr. Abbamonte are professionals from who we expect a factual analysis.

    His assertion that Ethiopian’s fleet is aging is not based on fact. The truth is that Ethiopian has the youngest fleet in Africa.While there are several other glaring mistakes and errors, I will confine my criticism to this one point.

  55. I think if people are giving out their opinion everyone will suport their intrest the only solution is to give facts which has reference.

  56. hi dear all, who is the best airline? first of all, i strongly disagree the analysis ,becuse it is not based on the research fingings, no more validation what the author doing. For me its just as arguements between E,K& SA

  57. I flew royal air maroc in September on my cpt-doh-cas trip and back, they were fantastic, the food was amazing and the staff friendly and efficient, the fact that Qatar uses them as a partner speaks volumes, I realise this article was written a while back, but really think the list should be updated saa has gone down the tubes as far as I am concerned.

  58. Dear Author……what I’ve read is fair enough.That being said,you might have to check our recent carriers like the 787 Dreamliner.we’ve got a bunch of them.Fly Ethiopian!

  59. frank rispin says

    Clearly Ethiopian is now number one

    Biggest revenue, newest fleet, biggest profit.

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