Listings: Top 10 Airports in Africa 

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Our list of the busiest airports in Africa, by number of passengers:

1. R. Tambo International Airport (IATA: JNB, ICAO: FAOR) (ORTIA) is a major international airport in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa, near the city of Johannesburg. It serves as the primary airport for domestic and international travel to/from South Africa and is Africa’s busiest airport with a capacity to handle up to 28 million passengers annually serving all continents except Antarctica (the only other airports on earth doing likewise are ATL, DOH, AUH, LHR, SYD, DXB and Paris Charles de Gaulle CDG). The airport is the hub of South Africa’s largest international and domestic carrier, South African Airways (SAA), and a number of smaller local airlines. The airport handled a total of 18 million passengers in 2014.

It was formerly officially known as Johannesburg International Airport and before that as Jan Smuts International Airport (hence the airport’s former ICAO code, “FAJS”) after South Africa’s internationally renowned statesman by that name. The first renaming was done in 1994 when the newly reformed South African government implemented a national policy of not naming airports after politicians. The policy was however reversed later, and the airport renamed again on 27 October 2006 after Oliver Tambo, a former President of the African National Congress

2. Cape Town International Airport (IATA: CPT, ICAO: FACT) is the primary airport serving the city of Cape Town, and is the second busiest airport in South Africa and third busiest in Africa. Located approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the city centre, the airport was opened in 1954 to replace Cape Town’s previous airport, Wingfield Aerodrome. Cape Town International Airport is the only airport in the Cape Town metropolitan area that offers scheduled passenger services. The airport has domestic and international terminals, linked by a common central terminal.

The airport has direct flights from South Africa’s other two main urban areas, Johannesburg and Durban, as well as flights to smaller centres in South Africa. Internationally, it has direct flights to several destinations in Africa, Asia and Europe. The air route between Cape Town and Johannesburg was the world’s ninth busiest air route in 2011 with an estimated 4.5 million passengers.

busiest airports in africa

3. King Shaka International Airport (IATA: DUR, ICAO: FALE), abbreviated KSIA, is the primary airport serving Durban, South Africa. Located in La Mercy, KwaZulu-Natal, approximately 35 km (22 mi) north of the city centre of Durban, it opened its doors to passengers on 1 May 2010, just over a month before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It replaced Durban International Airport (ICAO: FADN) and uses the same IATA airport code. The airport was designed by Osmond Lange Architects and Planners and cost R6.8 billion (about US$900 million). On 27 January 2014 the world’s largest passenger aircraft, an Airbus A380-800 of British Airways landed at KSIA becoming the first A380 to do so. The aircraft was being used for training and operated many flights in and out of the airport until 4 February 2014. The aircraft also returned for further pilot training between August the 29th and September the 1st of the same year.

4. Cairo International Airport is the mainstay of EgyptAir, as well as being the busiest Egyptian Airport. Cairo Airport is located towards the north-eastern part of the city and about 15 kilometers from the heart of the City’s business area.

It is administered together with other airport facilities by EHCAAN or the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation. Management is through contractual arrangements, currently held by Fraport AG. Started as a naval base, it was after the Second World War that Cairo Airport started to take shape. After the American Forces commanding the base had left after the end of the war, it was taken over by the Civil Aviation Authority for global civil aviation purposes. It was in 1963 that Cairo International Airport earned its title after replacing Heliopolis, the old airport, located along the Hike-Step region in the eastern part of Cairo.

By 2009 Cairo Airport was able to serve about 14.4 million passengers, a sizeable percentage increase from the previous year. It also handled about 143,000 movements of aircrafts in the same year, also a strategic increase from the previous year. The tonnage of airfreight passing through the airport was about 275,000. Amidst this statistics, Cairo Airport still comes second in Africa in terms of busy airport activity.

There are more than 65 airlines using the airport, as well as nine cargo and charter airline. EgyptAir has the largest chunk of operations in the airport taking up to 61 percent of all departure slots. After EgypAir was assimilated into the lucrative Star Alliance carrier, Cairo Airport has been poised to become the chief hub of major destinations from Africa, Europe and the Middle East, since it has A380 facilities among other major utilities.

As the airport continues to grow in terms of passenger and air traffic, it is in constant development to sustain these ever rising needs.

5. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (IATA: MRU, ICAO: FIMP), SSR Airport, is the main international airport in Mauritius. It is located 26 nautical miles (48 km) southeast of the capital city of Port Louis. The airport was previously known as the Plaisance Airport, it was renamed in memory of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. The airport, set to become a regional hub, has direct flights to several destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and is home to the country’s national airline Air Mauritius. Airports of Mauritius Co. Ltd (AML) is the owner and operator of the airport, the Government of Mauritius is the major shareholder of AML. Airport Terminal Operations Ltd (ATOL) is responsible for the design, building and operation of the new terminal building.

6. East London Airport (IATA: ELS, ICAO: FAEL) is an airport serving East London, a city in the Eastern Cape province on the southeast coast of South Africa.

East London’s airport is a small but bustling one that plays an important role in the growing economy of the Eastern Cape. Every day it welcomes between 20 and 30 flights – which bring 346,000 people to East London each year. Of these, about 140,000 are holidaymakers, mostly local, and about 15% are foreign tourists. In 2013, the airport served 658,363 passengers.

7. Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (IATA: ADD, ICAO: HAAB) serves the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is located in the Bole area, 6 km (3.7 mi) southeast of the city centre and 65 km (40 mi) north of Debre Zeyit. The airport was formerly known as Haile Selassie I International Airport. It is the main hub of Ethiopian Airlines, the national airline that serves destinations in Ethiopia and throughout the African continent, as well as nonstop service to Asia, Europe, North America and South America. The airport is also the base of the Ethiopian Aviation Academy. As of 31 July 2013, more than 150 flights per day were departing from and arriving at the airport.

8. Marrakesh Menara Airport (French: Aéroport Marrakech Ménara, Arabic: مطار مراكش المنارة‎, IATA: RAK, ICAO: GMMX) is an international airport serving Marrakesh, the capital city of the Marrakesh-Tensift-El Haouz region in Morocco. It is an international facility that receives several European flights as well as flights from Casablanca and some of the Arab world nations. The airport served over 3.3 million passengers in the year 2012. Currently (2012) Menara Airport (RAK) has formally two passenger terminals, but these are more or less combined to form one large terminal. A third terminal is being built. The existing T1/T2 offer a space of 42.000 m2 and has a designed capacity of 4.5 million passengers/year. The separate freight-terminal has 340m2 covered space The air terminals (1 and 2) are 22,000 m2 (236,806 sq ft) and designed to handle 2,500,000 passengers per year.

9. Seychelles International Airport (IATA: SEZ, ICAO: FSIA) or Aéroport de la pointe Larue as it is known locally is on the island of Mahé, Seychelles near the capital city of Victoria. It forms part of the administrative districts of La pointe Larue (terminal area), Cascade/Providence (in the North) and Anse aux pins (in the south and military base).

The airport is 11 km southeast of the capital and is accessible by the Victoria-Providence Highway. There is frequent service from the bus station in Victoria, with taxi ranks outside the terminal available to all locations on Mahé Island and several tour operator’s coach services – namely Creole Travel Services and Mason’s travel – which also links passengers to the ferry terminal at the Old Port (Vieux port) for inter-island ferry services and to the New Port (Nouveau port) for cruise holidays.

busiest airports in africa

10. Murtala Muhammed International

Originally known as Lagos International Airport, it was renamed in the mid 1970s, during construction of the new international terminal, after a former Nigerian military head of state Murtala Muhammed. The international terminal was modelled after Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The new terminal opened officially on 15 March 1979. It is the main base for Nigeria’s flag carrier airlines, Aero and Arik Air.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport consists of an international and a domestic terminal, located about one kilometre from each other. Both terminals share the same runways. This domestic terminal used to be the old Ikeja Airport. International operations moved to the new international airport when it was ready while domestic operations moved to the Ikeja Airport, which became the domestic airport. The domestic operations were relocated to the old Lagos domestic terminal in 2000 after a fire. A new domestic privately funded terminal known as MMA2 has been constructed and was commissioned on 7 April 2007. In 2009, the airport served 5,644,572 passengers.

Collated by African Leadership Magazine

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