Africa Weekly Aviation Trails: Week 15, 2024 Highlights.

David Reeves

The past week was a rollercoaster ride for African aviation! While Ethiopian Airlines celebrated a momentous achievement, Air Peace found itself navigating hazy new skies. From allegations of sabotage to exciting fleet additions and new route announcements, there’s plenty to unpack. Dive in and discover the latest developments in African aviation!


Ethiopian Airlines celebrated 78 years of pioneering aviation last week. Founded on December 21, 1945, the airline made its debut with a historic flight to Nairobi, Kenya, carrying an East African currency shipment worth US $3.7 million in February 1946. Just two months later, on April 8, 1946, Ethiopian Airlines launched its first revenue scheduled service to Cairo via Asmara, Eritrea then part of Ethiopia, using one of its five Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft acquired from the US government. Since then, the airline has navigated the skies’ withering the storms to emerge as Africa’s largest, most profitable, and award-winning aviation group.

In a first for the continent, Ryanair – Europe’s Favourite Airline, an Irish ultra-low-cost carrier, has secured full cabotage rights (ninth freedom right) to operate within Morocco, marking a significant milestone as the first and only foreign owned carrier to conduct full cabotage domestic flights not just in Morocco but across Africa. The inaugural domestic flight in Morocco took place on March 31, 2024, from Marrakech Menara Airport to Oudja Angads Airport under flight number FR6741. Despite its operations limited to Morocco, Ryanair also leads as the foremost foreign carrier for international flights to and from Africa.

African Aviation: Projections And Statistics.

All indicators point to Africa’s air traffic experiencing an average growth rate exceeding 7.4%, making it the third-highest among global regions. This growth rate surpasses the global average of 6.1%. According to OAG, global capacity is set to reach 483.9 million in April 2024, marking a 7.8% increase compared to the same month in 2023, translating to 35 million additional seats. Overall, nearly every region in the world is experiencing growth except for two: Central America and Central/Western Africa in this particular month compared to April 2023. In Africa, North Africa has shown the strongest growth volume, followed by Southern Africa and East Africa. See the figure below.


A study conducted in 2021 by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots revealed that South Africa is among the top five countries with the highest number of female pilots, with women comprising 9.9% of the total pilot population in the country. Globally, the proportion of female pilots remains relatively small, with only 5.8% of all pilots being female. Leading the pack is India with 12.4% of its pilots being women, followed by Ireland and South Africa tied at 9.9%, Canada at 7%, and Germany at 6.9%. In relations to this, South Sudan’s first female pilot, Aluel Bol Aluenge, has ascended to the rank of captain with a major American airline, Delta Air Lines, after gaining experience with Ethiopian Airlines and flydubai, serving as an inspiration for South Sudanese girls.

A report from the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration highlights a significant disparity in visa issuance for students between Africa and other parts of the world. While high refusal rates were observed in the Middle East and South America, Africa recorded the highest rejection rates. Ethiopia led with a 78% denial rate, followed by Nigeria at 75%, with Kenya closely behind at 74%. This trend is concerning, as noted by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, an NGO based in Washington, as it impedes international students from pursuing opportunities on an equal footing.

Air Service Agreements (ASA’s) and Airline Agreements.

Algeria and the USA have made significant progress in discussions regarding a potential open skies agreement between the two countries. If finalized, Air Algérie stands to gain from new routes connecting with the contiguous USA, as its current North American destination is limited to Montreal, Canada.

The Colombian government has announced a new air cargo route in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines(ET). This announcement, made by Colombia’s Vice President, was part of the seminar “Africa: A Continent of Opportunities for Colombia.” The agreement grants ET Cargo three regular cargo services in Colombia, aiming to expedite Colombian products’ transit to Africa within a day. Colombian exports to Africa already total $854 million, constituting 1.7% of the country’s total exports, making this development a significant boost.

Aviation cooperation between Angola and Mozambique has expanded with a recent agreement signed by their civil aviation regulators (ANAC & IACM) on April 10, 2024. This agreement enables national carriers of both countries, TAAG-Linhas Aereas de Angola and LAM – MOZAMBIQUE AIRLINES, to operate flights to destinations beyond the primary airports in Maputo and Luanda.

In Libya, Ghadames Airline has forged a partnership with CPaT Global LLC to enhance its training programs. CPaT Global will provide Ghadames Airline with aircraft systems courses and a library of general subjects for the Boeing B737 Classic and Boeing B777 fleets. Additionally, they will offer a cabin crew training suite covering B777 aircraft systems, cabin crew safety, and general subjects.

Routes and Airline Connectivity.

Qatar Airways has unveiled its latest network expansion, including the addition of Kinshasa Ndjili Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo starting from June 1, 2024, bringing its total destinations served in Africa to twenty-nine (29). This new service will complement its existing route to Luanda, Angola, where the airline has increased its frequency from once weekly to four times weekly. The Kinshasa/Luanda route will be operated by a Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner, featuring 22 Business Class seats and 232 Economy Class seats.

Medsky airways, based in Libya, is set to make Tunis its first African destination after initially focusing on European routes since its inception in September 2022.

Kenya Airways has announced plans to enhance its services, with two additional flights between Nairobi and New York starting from June 15. Additionally, the airline will resume Maputo services after a five-year hiatus, commencing on June 14, 2024, operating three flights per week on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays using the E190 aircraft.

Cameroon’s CAMAIR-CO has revealed the launch of two new destinations: Cotonou in Benin and Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo, beginning from Monday, May 13. These routes will be operated four times per week and will utilize the B737-700 aircraft.

Airline Fleets and ACMI’s.

Uganda Airlines is planning to wet-lease a 35 year old Airbus A320 aircraft from Global Airways Group before the end of April. This aircraft will be deployed on its route to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo in South Africa, filling the medium-haul gap in its fleet, as stated by CEO Jennifer Bamuturaki.

Nigeria’s Ibom Air has received its first Embraer aircraft, the E170, as part of its efforts to expand operations. This delivery precedes the arrival of A220-300 aircraft from its order book, with one model already in service.

Air Cairo has expanded its fleet with the addition of an Airbus A320, which arrived from Zagreb, Croatia. This delivery brings the airline’s fleet size to 32 aircraft.

Kenya Airways is planning to transition its leasing arrangement for its sole Airbus A330-300 from HI FLY Malta from a wet lease to a damp lease. Crew training for this transition is already underway.

Fly Gabon has acquired its first aircraft, a new ATR72-600, marking a significant milestone for the airline.

BESTFLY has temporarily suspended flight operations due to equipment shortages. However, it expects to resume inter-island flights in the country’s archipelago with the arrival of a wet-leased Dash-8-Q300 from CemAir (Pty)Ltd.

ECAir – Equatorial Congo Airlines is facing potential disruptions in its plan to relaunch operations due to a legal issue in the UK regarding the airline’s four Boeing aircraft.

Aviation Infrastructure and Financing.

The Egyptian government has given approval for the allocation of land for Ras al-Hikma International Airport, situated on the northwest coast of Egypt approximately 350 kilometers from Cairo. This airport is expected to emerge as a key tourist destination in Egypt.

Antananarivo and Nosy Be international airports, managed by the airport operator RAVINALA AIRPORTS MADAGASCAR, have achieved Level 2 Airport Carbon Accreditation. This accomplishment significantly enhances environmental sustainability and supports the operator’s Carbon Management Plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these two airports.

Wilson Airport, often considered Kenya’s and arguably Africa’s busiest general aviation airport, experienced a temporary outage of its runway lights due to what the Kenya Airports Authority, the airport operator, described as a technical fault. This incident led several domestic carriers operating from the airport to divert their flights to the nearby Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Special news of the week – Air Peace

Air Peace Limited‘s inaugural flight to London Gatwick Airport on March 31st sparked a mixture of celebration and controversy. While Nigerian travelers rejoiced at the airline’s affordable introductory fares, accusations of sabotage and predatory pricing by competing airlines emerged.

Rumors swirled about a significant drop in international fares on the Nigeria-UK route offered by foreign carriers. Air Peace’s CEO Dr (Barr) Allen Onyema claimed this as a deliberate attempt to prematurely force them out of the market. The CEO alleges that foreign airlines previously charged exorbitant prices, but have now slashed them – potentially below their break-even point – to pressure Air Peace’s exit.

Air Peace Limited further accused Gatwick Airport of sabotage. The airline claims consistent departure delays despite completing boarding on-time. They attribute this to the airport’s alleged inability to provide timely ground personnel for departures, potentially jeopardizing Air Peace’s compliance with the 80/20 rule (maintaining an 80% on-time departure rate to retain landing slots).

Air Peace also alleged that Gatwick Airport authorities refused to acknowledge their inaugural flight on March 30th, 2024, with the customary water salute and social media recognition typically offered to new airlines.  While a Swiss airline’s inaugural flight reportedly received both gestures, Air Peace did not. Gatwick Airport attempted to address this criticism with a belated welcome post on their X social media platform (formerly Twitter) on April 10th, 2024, eleven days after the inaugural flight.

In other news:

Airports Company South Africa is taking proactive measures to address a potential jet fuel shortage at OR Tambo International Airport. This action comes as its primary fuel supplier, National Petroleum Refiners of SA (Pty) Ltd (NATREF), is preparing for a planned maintenance shutdown between May and June. Consequently, fuel stocks at the airport have fallen below the five-day fuel cover threshold.

In Uganda, the Auditor General revealed that Uganda Airlines incurred losses amounting to hundreds of thousands of US dollars (approximately $262,345.64) due to a fraudulent transfer to an account linked to the DRC Civil Aviation Authority. The case has been escalated to Interpol. Additionally, the Auditor General highlighted concerns about the airline’s operating margin ratio in the previous financial year, indicating poor performance in terms of profitability and service sustainability. The airline was also flagged for unfavorable contractual terms with Rolls-Royce, requiring monthly advance payments for actual and unflown hours, resulting in a demand of USD 7.2 million by Rolls-Royce PLC at the time of the audit in November 2023.

Madagascar Airlines has been implementing a restructuring plan named “phoenix 2030” which includes the suspension of international flights and intends to reduce its employee/aircraft ratio, currently at 400 employees per aircraft.

AirKenya Express Limited has announced John Kimondo as its new CEO, signaling a change in leadership. Meanwhile, South African Airways is actively searching for a permanent CEO to chart an alternative strategic course following the failure of its privatization endeavor. The airline has opened applications for five senior management roles, including the chief executive position, as it transitions from an interim leadership team that has been at the helm for the past three years.

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