The 15 Busiest Airports in Africa

African aviation is entering its golden age as the continent's once ailing airlines spring back to life and the air travel market experiences robust growth. In many African countries, plans are now underway to revive defunct national carriers while African and foreign entrepreneurs are busy launching new carriers.

As the initiatives to put more planes on the runways of Africa get underway, the African travel market is growing in leaps and bounds.

The growth in the travel market has been fueled by the steady growth of African economies in the last few years which has sustained an aviation market driven mostly by business passengers traveling across the continent; Airbus has predicted that African economies will grow by 6.5% between now and 2020 and this is a very bright future outlook for the continent. With steady economic growth also comes the continued expansion of the African middle class and the increased demand for international and regional travel by this burgeoning middle class. Other factors driving the development and growth of Africa's travel market include growth in tourism in the traditional tourist hotspots of Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius, Botswana, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tunisia. Strengthening of trade and commercial partnerships between African countries is also contributing to the rapid growth of the travel market. While in the past, trade and commercial relations were forged between African countries and European countries, today they are forged between African partner states.

You are likely to find today's African businesspeople strutting the streets of Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos or Tunis building inter African business partnerships.

Increased investments by local entrepreneurs in aviation startups has also contributed to the growth of the market, particularly in Northern, Eastern and Southern Africa.

African Aviation megacities
Airbus predicts that Africa will have 6 Aviation Megacities by the year 2030. An Aviation Megacity is a location that handles more than 10,000 long-haul passengers each day. Currently, Johannesburg is the only Aviation Megacity on the continent. So who could be the future contenders? Which are the busiest airports in Africa?

  1. OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg South Africa: O.R. Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) in Johannesburg is the air transport hub of Southern Africa and the busiest airports in Africa, catering for more than 18 million passengers each year. It's the busiest airport in Africa and the second busiest in the Africa-Middle East region after the Dubai International Airport. ORTIA has capacity to handle 28 million passengers. The airport was once called Jan Smuts International Airport in the dark ages of apartheid but was renamed to Johannesburg International Airport in 1994 before being renamed again in 2006 after the great South African anti-apartheid hero. The airport has the longest runway in Africa and is commonly referred as the "Gateway to South Africa." ORTIA employs an estimated 18,000 people through the various companies servicing the airport. The airport, like many others in South Africa is managed by a private company, Airports Company of South Africa(ACSA) and is one of the best managed airports in Africa. The airport plays an important role in the economy of Gauteng Province South Africa biggest economy.
OR Tambo International Airport During the Dark Days of apartheid when it was known as Jan Smuts Airport. Note the old livery of South African Airways

OR Tambo International Airport today

2.Cairo International Airport(CAI), Cairo Egypt; Cairo International Airport was once the busiest airport in Africa until it was overtaken by OR Tambo in 1996. It's now the second busiest airport in Africa and handles an estimated 16 million passengers every year. Over 65 airlines use the Cairo International Airport. The airport is managed privately by Frankfurt's Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide-Fraport AG, a concession that is set to expire this year. CAI is the Gateway into Egypt.
Cairo International Airport: Africa's Second Busiest Airport

3. Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport(SSH),  Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt : Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport is Africa's third busiest Airport. The airport is located in 18 kilometers (11 miles) northeast from the city of Sharm El Sheikh. The airport serves the major recreation area of Egypt including dozens of hotels along the Red Sea. The airport is located in the heart of the resort area of the Red Sea Coast. The Egyptian Airport handles an estimated 8.7 million passengers every year.
Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport Egypt Africa's third busiest Airport


4.Cape Town International Airport, Cape Town South Africa: Cape Town International Airport is Africa’s fourth busiest airport.  It is also Africa’s premier tourist and VIP destination and has established a reputation as Africa’s premier international award-winning airport. In 2010 the Airport catered for an estimated 8 million passengers.


5.Hurghada International Airport(HGR), Hurghada Egypt : Hurghada International Airport is Africa's fifth busiest airport and is located in the city of Hurghada in the Red Sea Riviera. Hurghada Airport serves the tourist market, mainly leisure travelers from Europe.Hurghada is a major resort destination for European tourists.
Hurghada International Airport, Hurghada Egypt



 6. Mohammed V International Airport(CMN), Casablanca Morocco: Catering for an estimated 7.2 million passengers, Mohammed V International Airport is the sixth busiest in Africa. The Airport was named after the late Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco. The airport is also the hub of flag carrier Royal Air Maroc, budget airline Jet4you, Air Arabia Maroc and Regional Air Lines.
Mohammed V International Airport



7.Murtala Muhammed International Airport(LOS), Lagos Nigeria: MMIA is Africa's seventh busiest airport and was originally known as Lagos International Airport. In 1970, it was renamed after a former Nigerian head of state Murtala Muhammed. In 2010 the airport catered for 6.3 million passengers making it Africa's 7th busiest airport. The Airport is privately managed by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport

8.Jomo Kenyatta International Airport(NBO), Nairobi Kenya: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is Africa's eighth busiest airport and the largest and busiest airport in the East and Central Africa. The airport, along with other airports in Kenya are managed by the Kenya Airports Authority. In 2010, the airport catered for 5.5 million passengers. JKIA is the hub for the Kenya's national carrier Kenya Airways, together with Fky540 and Jetlink. Currently the airport caters for an estimated 7 million passengers annually and could be ranked the 6th largest in Africa if data from other airports become available. The Kenyan government is currently planning an expansion programme that will see the JKIA airport's capacity increased to 20 million passengers, making it one of the largest airports in Africa. The airport was constructed in 1958 to handle 2.5 million passengers but has overstretched its capacity with the current 7 million passengers per year.




9. Houari Boumedienne Airport(ALG), Algiers Algeria Algeria's International Airport is Africa's 9th busiest airport. The airport is also called Algiers Airport and played an important role during WWII. The airport handled an estimated 4.5 million passengers in 2009. No data is available for 2010 and 2011.
Houari Boumediene International Airport

10. King Shaka International Airport, Durban South Africa: The King Shaka International Airport was opened in May 2010, one month before the World Cup in South Africa. Handling an estimated 4.7 million passengers in 2010, KSIA has contributed immensely to the economy of Durban and the greater Kwa Zulu Natal. Also known as La Mercy, the airport has opened South Africa's city of Durban to international flights. Before its construction in the run up to the World Cup, Durban was the only major South African city without an aviation infrastructure to accommodate international flights. The airport is three times bigger than the Durban International Airport that it replaced.
King Shaka International Airport, Durban. Also called La Mercy

11.Tunis-Carthage International Airport, Tunis Tunisia(TUN): Carthage Airport is Africa's 11th busiest Airport named after the ancient city of Carthage. In 2010, the Airport catered for some 4.6 million passengers. Ground handling at the airport is provided by Tunisair Handling, a 100% subsidiary of Tunisair, and security services are provided by the Tunisian Police and the Customs. Tunis-Carthage International Airport is the hub of TunisAir, Tunisia's national airline.
Tunis-Carthage International Airport

 12.Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport(ABV), Abuja Nigeria: The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport is located in Abuja and is Africa's 12th busiest airport. The airport catered for some 3.9 million passengers in 2010. The airport is managed by Abuja Gateway Consortium which signed a $101million 25 year concession with the Abuja government in a contract that includes the construction of an airport hotel, private car parks, shopping malls and a bonded warehouse, totaling USD50 million, during its first five years.
Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja Nigeria

13. Bole International Airport(ADD), Addis Ababa Ethiopia: Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is Africa's 13th busiest airport and the main hub of Ethiopian Airlines. In 2010, the Airport catered for approximately 3.8 million passengers. The airport is the main hub of Ethiopian Airlines and is the third largest airport in Africa by area size. The airport also has one of the longest runways in Africa. The airport was estimated to be serving 6 million passengers in 2011 although no concrete data is available. The Airport was formerly known as Haile Selassie I International Airport and still retains the ICAO code HAAB.
The Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

14. Marrakech-Menara Airport(RAK), Marrakech Morocco: This is the best and most beautiful airport in Africa with modern and Islamic architecture fusing together to form a classic.Designed by a team of architects led by Casablanca-based E2A Architecture and completed in 2008, the structure is formed of massive concrete rhombuses. This muscular approach is softened by the exquisite arabesque patterns on the building's glass skin, which cast complex, ever-changing shadows on the terminal's floors.


Marrakech-Menara Airport
 This is an international Airport serving the city of Marrakech and an international facility that receives flights mainly from tourists flying from Europe for holidays in Morocco. In 2010, the airport handled an estimated 3.44 million passengers and is the second busiest in Morocco  after Mohammed V International Airport. The Marrakech-Menara Terminal 1 is ranked amongst the top 10 terminals globally by Frommers and it also ranked one of the best airports in the world by Travel and Leisure Magazine. This futuristic airport is served by some of Europe's leading commercial airlines and airline charters as Morocco is one of the top destinations for European tourists.
The Marrakech-Menara Airport is ranked the best Airport in Africa and amongst the best 10 airports in the world by Travel and Leisure Magazine
The airport is also one of the greenest with 72 photovoltaic pyramids generating power on the roof.
Some of the airlines serving Marrakech-Menara Airport include Air France, Air Méditerranée, Binter Canarias, bmi, British Airways, Corendon Dutch Airlines, Brussels Airlines, easyJet, easyJet Switzerland, Europe Airpost, Hello, Air Nostrum, Jet4You, JetAirFly, Luxair, Vueling Airlines amongst others.


15 Monastir-Habib Bourguiba International Airport(MIR), Monastir Tunisia: Monastir is the 15th busiest airport in Africa. In 2010, the airport handled some 3.40 million passengers. The airport serves as the main airport for the city of Sousse and Monastir. It also serves many charter airlines to many resorts around Tunisia. Handling and ground services at the airport are provided by Nouvelair. The airport has seen reduced operations due to the opening of Enfidha Airport and some airlines have moved operations from Monastir to the new Enfidha Airport.
    Monastir-Habib Bourguiba International Airport(MIR), Tunisia


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