By Prudence Minayo
A number of African countries have taken huge steps to ensure their airports meet international standards. The largest airports are judged based on the landing area, number of runways and their qualities, hangers, terminals, taxiways, lounges, emergency services amongst other features. Busiest airports in the continent are determined by the number of passengers who transit through it annually. This article looks at the largest airports in Africa and some that are busy but not necessarily large in size.
O.R. Tambo International Airport- South Africa
It was founded in 1952 and is the largest and busiest airport in Africa. In 2017, the airport handled over 21 million passengers. It has a capacity of handling up to 28 million passengers annually. The airport was first known as Jan Smuts International Airport, named after former South African Prime Minister, before it was renamed Johannesburg International Airport in 1994 after the African National Congress (ANC) assumed power. It was not until 27 October 2006 that the airport came to be known as O.R. Tambo International Airport, after the anti-apartheid politician Oliver Reginald Tambo.
Cairo International Airport- Egypt
This is the busiest airport and the principal international airport in Egypt. It is located in the North East area of Cairo and covers an area of approximately 37 square kilometers. The airport is the second busiest in Africa.
Bole International Airport- Ethiopia
Located in Addis Ababa, it is the main hub of Ethiopian Airlines. It has the capacity to accommodate approximately 137 passenger flights per day. It was formerly known as Haile Selassie Airport and handles 12 million plus passengers annually making it the third busiest airport in Africa.
The longest route is from Addis Ababa to Toronto, Canada.
Cape Town International Airport- South Africa
It is the primary international airport serving Cape Town and is the second busiest in South Africa and fourth in Africa. It was opened in 1954 and is the only airport in the Cape Town metropolitan area that offers scheduled passenger services. It is located 20km from the city center. It has a domestic terminal and international terminal which are linked by a common central terminal. It has direct flights to a number of destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. The airport caters for about 10.7 million annual users.
King Shaka International Airport- South Africa
It opened its doors to passengers on 1st May 2010 just before the 2010 FIFA world cup. It replaced the Durbin International Airport. In January 2014, an Airbus A380-800 landed at the airport, making it the first to do so. This is the largest passenger aircraft in the world.
Hurghada International Airport- Egypt
It is the second busiest Airport in Egypt after Cairo International Airport. It is also an important destination for leisure flights mainly from Europe. The airport consists of terminal 1 and 2 with terminal 3 being inaugurated in December 2014. In 2018, it had an estimated 6.6million users making it the eighth busiest airport in Africa.
Mohammed V International Airport- Morocco
Located in Casablanca, Morocco, the airport is named after King Mohamed V. It is operated by ONDA National Airports office. In 2014, it had approximately 8 million passengers transiting through the airport, making it the fourth busiest in Africa and first in Morocco at the time. Passenger traffic increased yearly and currently stands at 9.7 million making it the fifth busiest in Africa.
Murtala Muhammed International Airport- Nigeria
Located in Lagos Nigeria, it serves the entire state. The airport houses the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, The Head Office of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, The Head Office of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Lagos Office of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority. It was constructed during world war 2 and was later named after the fourth Nigerian military ruler. It is ranked the 9th busiest airport in Africa.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport- Kenya
Located in the Embakasi area of Nairobi Kenya, JKIA has scheduled flights to over fifty countries. The airport was originally named Embakasi airport but its name was changed in 1978 to honor Jomo Kenyatta- the first prime minister and president of Kenya.
It has two terminals each divided into a number of sections with terminal 1A being used for international travels. In January 2017, a new instrument landing system equipped with a runway of 5,500m of land was approved for construction at an approximate cost of $370 million.
In 2016, it served an approximate 7 million passengers, making it the 7th busiest in the continent.
Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport-South Africa
Located in the Eastern province of South Africa, it has 13 aircraft parking spaces and can handle up to 2 million passengers a year. It is situated five minutes drive from the Central Business District and it served more than 1.6 million passengers in 2018. The airport’s name was changed from Port Elizabeth International Airport to Chief Dawid in February 2021.
Tunis Carthage Airport- Tunisia
With approximately 6.2 million passengers in 2018, it is the 10th busiest airport in Africa albeit not one of the largest. It is the main international airport of Tunis and is named after the historic city of Carthage- located East of the airport. Construction began in 1944 and was fully funded by France.
Houari Boumediene Airport- Algeria
Also known as Algiers International Airport, it was constructed in 1924. It is named after Houari Boumediene- the former president of Algeria. With about 350 flights a day and over 7.9 million passengers annually, it is the sixth busiest airport in Africa.