DATA: What are the Fastest Growing Airlines in Central / Western Africa?

Ahead of this year's inaugural Routes Middle East and Africa forum, Routesonline is providing a snapshot on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across the region. Here we look closely at the airlines serving Central and Western Africa and highlight the region's top performers.

Ahead of this year's inaugural Routes Middle East and Africa forum, Routesonline is providing a snapshot on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across the region.  Here we look closely at the airlines serving Central and Western Africa and highlight the region's top performers.

 The data is all supplied by OAG Aviation using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool.

Scheduled Air Capacity From Central / Western Africa (2005 - 2014)

Our analysis of published schedules for the past ten years shows that air capacity within and from Central / Western Africa has risen from 19,887,127 available seats in 2005 to 29,580,847 available seats in 2014.  This represents a growth of 48.7 per cent across the period, an average annual increase of 5.4 per cent.  In the past year capacity increased 6.1 per cent.

Top Ten Airlines in the Central / Western African Market (2014)

The important role the Nigerian aviation sector plays in the Central and West African market is clear when you look at the leading airlines in these parts of Africa. The two largest airlines in 2014 by departure capacity within and from the region in 2014 were both from the country and accounted for more than a quarter of the available departure capacity in this area.

Arik Air leads the way with a 17.9 per cent share of available capacity within and from Central / Western Africa in 2014, ahead of Aerocontractors with an 8.5 per cent with the former significantly increasing their dominance. In the past five years Arik Air has emerged as the prominent carrier in this part of Africa and has grown its departure capacity share from 13.5 per cent in 2010, up 4.4 percentage points.

The Central / Western African markets are well served by airlines from outside the region with Air France (6.1 per cent share) and Brussels Airlines (2.9 per cent share) taking advantage of colonial links into Africa to serve these markets; Royal Air Maroc (3.4 per cent share) has used Morocco’s geographical position to become a key operator into both Central and Western Africa, while Emirates Airline (2.4 per cent) is linking the area to its global network.

Fastest Growing Airlines in the Central / Western African Market (2010-2014)

Looking at capacity data in the region across a five year period and you see an emergence of new operators serving the Central /Western African market. Five of the top twenty airlines by departures within and from the region in 2014 were established since 2010, namely the Ivory Coast’s Air Cote d'Ivoire; Cameroon’s Camair-Co; EC Air in the Republic of the Congo; Compagnie Africaine d'Aviation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Westlink in Nigeria.

Over the past five years ASKY Airlines, based in Lomé, Togo, has grown capacity by the biggest margin with capacity increasing almost five-fold between 2010 and 2014, rising by 395.0 per cent from 187,880 seats to just under one million. This growth was despite a 7.8 per cent decline in capacity in the past year and was due to rapid growth in 2012.

Like in other parts of Africa, Turkish Airlines has considerably grown its presence in Central / Western Africa over the past five years with available departure seats within and from the region more than trebling from 150,313 in 2010 to 541,629 in 2014, a rise of 260.3 per cent. Notable growth during this five year period was also recorded by Arik Air (up 53.8 per cent), Trans Air Congo (up 43.4 per cent), Emirates Airline (up 38.3 per cent), while European flag carriers Air France (up 21.7 per cent) and Brussels Airlines (18.4 per cent) have boosted deployment in this area.

Data comparison between 2013 and 2014 shows a mixed performance in terms of capacity development among the top ten airlines in Central / Western Africa by departure seats within and from the region. Only four of the top ten largest airlines reported a growth in its offering with overall capacity among these operators growing by 2.5 per cent (versus 6.1 per cent for the Central / Western African region as a whole).

The largest growth in this period has been recorded by Air Côte d'Ivoire, which succeeded Air Ivoire as the national carrier of the Ivory Coast at the start of this decade. The airline launched operations in November 2012 is already the eighth largest in the region by departure seats within and from Central / Western Africa with a 2.6 per cent share. Its capacity increased 51.1 per cent between 2013 and 2104 from 517,712 to 782519 departure seats as it added six additional destinations to its network and boosted capacity in existing markets from Abidjan.

Two other airlines in the top ten increased capacity within and from Central / Western Africa by a double-digit figure between 2013 and 2014 – Nigeria’s Arik Air (up 13. 5 per cent) and Ethiopian Airlines (up 10.5 per cent), while UAE hub carrier Emirates Airline offered 4.0 per cent more seats in 2014 after adding Abuja, Nigeria to its network and boosting flights to Conakry, Guinea, a new destination to its network in 2013.

Among the six airlines in the top ten reporting capacity declines in 2014 versus 2013, Aerocontractors in Nigeria showed the largest fall (down 14.1 per cent), while reductions in departure seats in the region also occurred at Brussels Airlines (down 8.5 per cent) and ASKY Airlines (down 7.8 per cent). More modest declines were reported by Air France (down 1.9 per cent) and Cameroon’s flag carrier Camair-Co (down 1.0 per cent).

Looking at the wider top twenty airlines in the region and its other newcomers to the market that have the largest rise in departure capacity within and from Central / Western Africa between 2013 and 2014. The largest was recorded by Compagnie Africaine d'Aviation in the Democratic Republic of Congo which more than quadrupled departure seats in the period from 113,150 in 2013 to 493,632 in 2014.

The second largest growth was recorded by EC Air. The airline, the flag carrier of the Republic of the Congo, launched domestic operations in September 2011, adding its first international route – a link between Brazzaville and Paris in August 2012. The development of the airline has seen its departure capacity within and from the region rise 77.1 per cent from 341,840 seats in 2013 to 605,297 in 2014.

Notable double-digit growth was also recorded by Turkish Airlines (up 35.5 per cent) and Dana Airlines (up 26.0 per cent), while double-digit declines were seen at Trans Air Congo (down 13.1 per cent) and Lufthansa (down 11.1 per cent).

Scheduled Central / Western African Capacity by Aircraft Type

The chart below shows which aircraft types were most prevalent in the Central and Western African market during 2014 and to say that the Boeing 737 dominates would not be an understatement. The schedule data shows that five of the top six most regularly used aircraft types in this region are variants of the US-built single-aisle airliner, together equating for just under a third (30.3 per cent) of departure seat capacity in 2014.

The Boeing 737-800 (800) is the most widely used aircraft type in this market with a 10.7 per cent share of available seats, albeit with overall network capacity down by 8.4 per cent between 2013 and 2014 to just over 3.1 million departure seats. The second most utilised aircraft type in this market is the smaller 737-700 (73G) with a 9.9 per cent share, up 29.1 per cent in 2014, while the third most widely operated type by network capacity is the Boeing 737 (737) with a 8.7 per cent share, up 12.6 per cent, followed by the older Boeing 737-400 (734) with a 5.7 per cent share, up 14.1 per cent, in fourth.

The most regularly used non-Boeing 737 type used in this part of Africa is the Airbus A330-200 (332) with a 5.5 per cent capacity share in 2014, up 18.6 per cent on the previous year, ranking it fifth in the region slightly ahead of the Boeing 737-500 (735) with a 5.2 per cent share, up 13.5 per cent on 2013.

Although Boeing clearly dominates in the short-haul market in Central and Western Africa, the Airbus A320 Family is also used on flights within and from the region with the Airbus A320 holding a 4.3 per cent share of departure capacity in 2014 and the smaller Airbus A319 a 3.7 per cent share; the latter among the fastest growing types in this area with a 21.3 per cent rise in capacity between 2013 and 2014.

Only three of the ten aircraft types most prevalent in Central and Western Africa witnessed a decline in usage in 2014 versus 2013. These were recorded by the Boeing 777-300ER (77W) with a fall of 10.3 per cent versus 2013, the Airbus A330-300 (333) with a decline in seats of 10.2 per cent and the Boeing 737-800 (738) with an 8.4 per cent capacity reduction.

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