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Can You Afford the Most Expensive Flights in Africa?

most expensive flights in africa
Written by Teresa Mwangi

Africa is characteristic of diverse landscapes and ultra-luxurious destinations but which are the most expensive flights in Africa?

The existence of the luxurious destinations and establishments dictate the cost aspect for some of these flights. Unknown to many is that some of the exclusive and less-traveled destinations, providing a glimpse into hidden gems require deep pockets. Therefore; the next question is ‘is there anything that comes with deep pockets?’ Probably not.

Which are the Most Expensive Flights in Africa?

Kenya’s national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ) takes the crown of the most expensive flights in Africa. Kenya Airways has the most expensive tickets among airlines operating in Africa, charging more on average than carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways and Air France.

A 2021 study by African Competition Forum (ACF) representing a total of 24 African countries found that KQ charges the highest average fares on domestic and international flights. The finding showed the national carrier risks losing market share to cheaper rivals like Ethiopian Airlines and new entrants, including Uganda Airlines. KQ had higher fares on most routes where it has competition, though there are a few instances where its rivals charged more.

best airlines in Africa 2022

A Kenya Airways plane. Photo/Kenya Association of Travel Agents

ACF discovered that the Kenyan carrier had the highest average passenger price per kilometre (APPK). And this was for all routes internationally, domestic and regional and international routes. Furthermore, the average passenger per kilometer on routes from Nairobi to the Tanzania markets is higher than that on international routes, despite the latter covering longer distances.

For example, on the Nairobi-Johannesburg route, Kenya Airways in 2021 charged an average price per kilometer of Ksh23.8 ($0.22), while South African Airways (SAA) charges Ksh22 ($0.2). KQ charged 21% higher than SAA in a clear case of the most expensive flights in Africa.

What is Kenya Airways Ranked in the World?

Skytrax World Airline in 2023 ranked KQ 81st globally down from 79th in 2022. However, its global ranking varies depending on the metric used for comparison. Meanwhile, in a recent global on-time performance assessment of airlines and airports, Kenya Airways secured a second spot Africa’s second most efficient airline.

The January 2024 on-time Performance Review report from Cirium, showcases the airline’s commendable achievement with a remarkable on-time arrival rate of 71.86%, based on 41,905 completed flights in 2023. Cirium is an aviation analytics company.

An on-time flight is one that arrives within 15 minutes of the scheduled gate arrival. Similarly, for an airport, on-time departure is defined as taking place within 15 minutes of its scheduled departure. Cirium further ranked KQ 10th in the Middle East & Africa region.

Why are Flights to Kenya so Expensive?

Besides Kenya Airways ranking among the most expensive airlines in Africa, it carries with the repute of highly-priced flight tickets in Kenya. Below are factors that make it a costly affair to get a ticket to Kenya.

Kenya Airways

Kenya Airways is one of the best airlines to fly to Kenya. Photo/ Kenyan Wallstreet.

Route & Distance

Long-haul flights originating in Europe, North America, or Asia result in higher fuel consumption and operational costs. Limited direct flight options from various origins drive up demand and pricing for specific routes.

Airline Competition & Monopoly

Kenya Airways, functioning as the flag carrier and a major provider on many routes, holds a dominant position. The lack of robust low-cost options, typically found in other tourist destinations, affects overall affordability.

Airport Taxes & Fees

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, the primary entry point, imposes relatively high passenger and landing fees. Additional taxes and fees levied by the Kenyan government contribute to the overall ticket prices.

Operational Costs

Global fuel price fluctuations significantly impact airline expenses, leading to higher fares for passengers. The maintenance of a modern fleet and investments in airport infrastructure also contribute to operational costs reflected in ticket prices.

Seasonality & Demand

During peak travel periods, such as Christmas holidays or summer vacations, there is a surge in demand, leading to higher prices for available seats. Outside peak times, limited flight frequency on certain routes may result in less flexible options and potentially higher prices.

Visa Process & Complexity

Visa requirements for some nationalities add an extra cost and may deter potential travelers, impacting market dynamics. Additionally, visa application fees, although not directly reflected in ticket prices, contribute to the overall cost of traveling to Kenya.

About the author

Teresa Mwangi

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, loves travelling and telling stories about tour and travel in Africa by every angle.

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