1. South African Airways is the clear number one airline on the African continent. It is the shining star that brings Africa to the world. South African has direct flights to five other continents and a great hub at Johannesburg Airport. South African is Africa’s world-class airline and you should expect what you’d expect from any world-class airline.
South African Airways is a full member of the Star Alliance and has direct flights from New York, London, Dubai, Sydney, Sao Paolo and Beijing. This is what keeps the South African economy going-the accessibility of the world. The only drawback with South African Airways is it is far from just about everywhere. But the same can be said for Australia and they seem to manage pretty well!
2. Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines is secretly one of my favorite airlines. Not because they are so great but because of where they are located. I love Ethiopia and their hub city of Addis Ababa and have flown there and through many times. Ethiopian Airlines itself is very good for African standards but not quite up to par with South African or even Egypt Air but is 100% in the 5 best airlines in Africa.
3. Egypt Air
Egypt Air has transformed itself over the past 10 years unlike any airline in the world in my view. After a terrible crash in early 2004, Egypt Air has rebounded to become a global player in Africa and the Middle East. They have improved their planes, routes and they have even become a full member of the Star Alliance. I have flown them several times over the past few years via their Cairo hub and they have always been pretty good.
Their lounges are OK and to me the biggest drawback is the fact that you always have to take a bus from the airport in Cairo to the plane. They never park at the gate and I hate that. On a connection, you have to do it twice but Egypt Air often has very cheap fares so you make due. Just as Egypt Air has done in improving themselves.
Ethiopian Airlines, a full Star Alliance member, has a great route map within Africa and the Middle East. They even have a direct flight from Addis Ababa to Washington DC and London. That said, there are often very good deals around Africa and the Middle East if you go through Addis so keep an eye out. Just remember the planes aren’t that great as many are old and not well kept. However, the service is pretty good and they’ll get you to some places many airlines can’t take you.
4. Kenya Airways
Kenya Airways is a good airline for Africa. It is the flagship carrier of the nation of Kenya and has its hub in Nairobi. It has become a full member of Sky Team and is the only African airline with this distinction. The planes are not bad and many are quite new. The service is OK and the airline lounges in Nairobi are very poor for a global airline standard.
The biggest issue for me with Kenya Airways is that Nairobi Airport is terrible. It is over crowded, old and planes are often delayed. Literally when I walk through the airport, the place is littered with people sleeping on the floor in the narrow dark hallways. So while the planes themselves are pretty good, the overall experience is not my favorite. But again, Kenya Airways definitely belongs in the 5 best airlines in Africa.
5. Royal Air Maroc
Royal Air Maroc barely made this list as the fifth airline. In my view, the top 4 are easy to pick but the fifth best airline in Africa is basically a toss up between a bunch of OK airlines. To me, Royal Air Maroc edged out Air Mauritius, Tunisair and Air Algerie because of its connections to Europe and the US.
Royal Air Maroc is good for domestic destinations within Morocco but the flight times are often in the middle of the night and you almost always have to connect through their hub in Casablanca and almost always for several hours. This is really annoying to me. Also, the customer service I’ve experienced with them is not very good, nor are their lounges. Royal Air Maroc or RAM may be in my top 5 airlines in Africa list but it’s definitely not my favorite.