ANALYSIS: Airlines in Eastern Africa - The Biggest and Fastest Growing Operators

Ahead of this year's World Routes forum, Routesonline is providing another look at our series of articles on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across regions of the world last year. Here we look closely at the airlines of Eastern Africa and highlight the region's top performers.

Ahead of this year's World Routes forum, Routesonline is providing another look at our series of articles on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across regions of the world last year.  Here we look closely at the airlines of Eastern 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 Eastern Africa (2005 - 2014)

Our analysis of published schedules for the past ten years shows that air capacity within and from Eastern Africa has risen from 15,273,418 available seats in 2005 to 24,771,883 available seats in 2014.  This represents a growth of 62.2 per cent across the period, an average annual increase of 6.9 per cent.  In the past year capacity declined 0.8 per cent.

Top Ten Airlines in the Eastern African Market (2014)

The two largest operators in East Africa, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways, are key local trading partners for the Star Alliance and SkyTeam global airline groupings and both are continuing to grow their presence in terms of capacity within and from Eastern Africa.

Ethiopian Airlines still leads the way with a 25.2 per cent share of available capacity within and from Eastern Africa in 2014, ahead of Kenya Airways with an 18.2 per cent, but both are increasing their dominance. In the past five years Ethiopian has grown its departure capacity share from 18.7 per cent in 2014 and Kenya Airways from 16.9 per cent the same year. Their combined share of departure seats has risen from 35.6 per cent in 2010 to 43.4 per cent in 2014.

The two airline are a long way ahead of the third largest airline in East Africa, Air Mauritius with a 5.3 per cent share, while Emirates Airline, the largest carrier in Eastern Africa from outside the Continent, and Tanzanian carrier Precisionair, a partner of Kenya Airways, make up the remainder of the regional top five with 4.0 per cent and 3.9 per cent shares, respectively.

Fastest Growing Airlines in the Eastern African Market (2010-2014)

Looking at capacity data in the region across a five year period the increasing role of hub airlines from outside of the area serving the Eastern African market is clear. Gulf carrier Qatar Airways has grown capacity by the biggest margin with capacity up 270.3 per cent from 2010. Notable growth during this timescale was recorded by Turkish Airlines (up 185.7 per cent) as its continued network growth has seen strong development in this part of Africa.

RwandAir was the fastest growing local carrier within and from Eastern Africa by capacity between 2010 and 2014 (up 135.6 per cent), while low-cost carrier Fastjet arrived in the market and has already established itself as eighth largest operator in the region by capacity with a 3.1 per cent share of departure seats.

Capacity declines among the top 20 airlines in Eastern Africa were consistent with five airlines reporting falls of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent between 2010 and 2014. These comprised Air Seychelles (down 27.2 per cent), Corsair International (down 26.7 per cent), Five Forty Aviation (down 24.2 per cent), Precisionair (down 23.5 per cent) and Air Madagascar (down 21.6 per cent).

Data comparison between 2013 and 2014 shows that it is the bigger carriers in and serving Eastern Africa that are growing at the expense of others, further strengthening their hold on aviation in the area. Three of the top four carriers by departure capacity reported growth between 2013 and 2014, while only four of the top ten had positive numbers.

The big two – Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways – both had strong growth years in 2014 with departure capacity within and from Eastern Africa increasing 10.4 per cent and 11.2 per cent, respectively. Likewise, Emirates Airline, the largest carrier from outside the region in Eastern Africa and fourth largest by capacity, recorded a 7.2 per cent growth. The only other carrier in the top ten to see growth was RwandAir with a 8.0 per cent capacity rise.

Looking at the wider top twenty airlines in the region it is a Kenyan airline that recorded the largest year-on-year capacity growth between 2013 and 2014. AirKenya Aviation has grown capacity 123.1 per cent between the two years as it has grown its activities from its base at Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Turkish Airlines was the only other carrier to record a double-digit growth in capacity between 2013 and 2104 with a 15.1 per cent rise in seats from Eastern Africa.

Scheduled Eastern African Capacity by Aircraft Type

The chart below shows which aircraft types were most prevalent in the Eastern African market during 2014. The schedule data shows that regional aircraft types are utilised the most in this part of the Continent with sub-125 seater jet and turboprop equipment in three of the top four positions.

The Embraer 190 (E90), which seats up to 124 passengers and is part of the EJet family, is the most widely used aircraft type in this market with a 9.7 per cent share of available seats with overall network capacity increasing by more than a third (up 35.7 per cent) between 2013 and 2014 to just under 2.5 million departure seats.

The second most utilised aircraft type in this market is the Boeing 737-800 (738) with a 9.3 per cent share, down 2.9 per cent in 2014, while the third most widely operated type by network capacity is the Bombardier Dash 8 (DH8) with a 7.1 per cent share, down 3.4 per cent, followed by the ATR 72 (AT7), down 9.0 per cent.

Alongside the rapid rise in E190 operations in Eastern Africa in 2014, the biggest rises in annual capacity among the top ten aircraft types were recorded by the Boeing 777-300ER (77W) with a 10.1 per cent rise in available seats in 2014 versus 2013 and the Airbus A320 (320) with a 5.9 per cent rise. In fact these were the only other types within the top ten to see capacity rises.

Seven of the ten airline types most prevalent in Eastern Africa witnessed a decline in usage in 2014 versus 2013. The largest decline in annual capacity were recorded by the Airbus A319 (319) with a fall of 23.3 per cent versus 2013 and the Boeing 767-300ER (763) with a decline in seats of 22.8 per cent.

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