DATA: What are the Fastest Growing Airports 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 airports 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 airports 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 Airports in the Central / Western African Market (2014)

The expansive aviation network in Nigeria, thanks particularly to strong internal passenger flows, means that the country was home to the two largest airports in Central / Western Africa by departure seats within and from the region in 2014.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is the largest with an 18.8 per cent share of departure capacity, followed by Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja with an 11.0 per cent share. Both have seen double digit capacity growth over the past two years boosting their combined share of departure seats within and from the Central / Western African market by 1.5 percentage points.

Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana is the third largest airport in this part of Africa and largest outside of Nigeria. It has an 8.4 per cent share of total departure capacity in 2014, up from 8.0 per cent in 2013 as it closes in on the 2.5 million departure seats milestone.

Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal (5.5 per cent) and Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (4.3 per cent) are the fourth and fifth largest facilities in Central / Western Africa by departure capacity, while Port Harcourt International Airport in Omagwa, a suburb of Port Harcourt city in Rivers State, Nigeria is the fifth largest in the region (3.7 per cent). The latter is named after the famous French aviator who was born in Saint-Denis.

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

Capacity data in the region over the past five year period highlights the rise of aviation in Central / Western Africa. Of the region’s top 20 airports by capacity, 14 have seen departure seats rise over the period between 2010 and 2014. The largest has been at Malabo’s Saint Isabel Airport, located at Punta Europa, Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea where capacity has more than doubled from 222,970 departure seats in 2010 to 493,045 in 2014, a rise of 121.1 per cent.

This growth actually follows two consecutive years of capacity declines and is thanks to a rapid increase in capacity by CEIBA Intercontinental in 2012. The airline has subsequently reduced capacity to sustainable levels, while European flag carriers Air France and Lufthansa and East Africa’s Ethiopian Airlines have upped capacity at the same time.

Nsimalen International Airport, the second largest facility in Cameroon and which serves the country’s capital, Yaoundé, was the second fastest airport in Central / Western Africa with capacity increasing 72.0 per cent between 2010 and 2014. Over this period Turkish Airlines and Air Cote d'Ivoire have launched flights alongside new national carrier Camair-Co.

Significant growth by EC Air and capacity rises by both Ethiopian Airlines and Air France has helped Maya–Maya Airport in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, report the third highest annual capacity growth between 2010 and 2014 with a 53.3 per cent rise in departure seats.

Notable growth has also been recorded at Antonio Agostinho Neto International Airport in Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo (up 49.0 per cent), Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, Nigeria (up 42.7 per cent); Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana (up 39.9 per cent).

Data comparison between 2013 and 2014 shows a strong capacity growth trend among the top ten airports in the region by capacity, particularly among the largest airports in the Central / Western African region. Nine of the ten largest airports in the area reported a growth in departure seats in 2014 with the three largest airports by capacity reporting double-digit rises during the period.

The three major airports were ranked as the first, third and fifth fastest growing facilities by departure capacity between 2013 and 2014. Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja took the top spot with a growth of 14.7 per cent over the period, thanks in part to new services from AeroContractors, Discovery Airways, Kenya Airways, Westlink and of course its high profile Emirates Airline service. Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana was ranked third with a 12.2 per cent growth and Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, fifth with a 10.8 per cent increase in departure seats.

The airports ranked second and fourth both also recorded double-digit rises in departure capacity between 2013 and 2014. N'Djili International Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kinshasa returned to growth after two year-on-year declines in annual capacity with a growth of 13.1 per cent, while Nigeria’s Port Harcourt International Airport had an 11.5 per cent capacity rise thanks to new airline entrants and growth from ArikAir.

The only airport within the top ten to report a capacity decline between 2013 and 2014 was Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal (down 2.3 per cent) due to reduction in the schedules of the country’s national carrier Senegal Airlines.

Looking at the wider top twenty airports in the region and only four airports ranked 11th-20th by capacity reported increases in departure seats between 2013 and 2014, lead by Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano, Nigeria (up 6.4 per cent). The declines in capacity among the six airports with capacity reductions were fairly negligible with the exception of Malabo’s Saint Isabel Airport, located at Punta Europa, Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea where departure seats fell 6.7 per cent after rapid growth in 2012 and Ouagadougou Airport, Burkina Faso where capacity was down 10.2 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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