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No, Nigeria’s privately owned Air Peace not Africa’s largest airline by passengers

IN SHORT: A list circulating widely on social media shows that privately owned Nigeria-based airline Air Peace is “Africa’s largest airline” based on the number of passengers annually. But there’s no evidence for this.

A list of “Africa’s Largest Airlines by Number of Passengers Annually” has been circulating on social media since 12 April 2024.

Air Peace, a privately owned airline based in Nigeria, tops the list. It’s just ahead of the continental giant Ethiopian Airlines.

The list reads, with flags indicating what country the airline is based in, as follows:

  1. Air Peace [Nigeria] - 14 million passengers
  2. Ethiopian Airlines [Ethiopia] - 13.89 million passengers
  3. Air Algerie [Algeria] - 7.2 million passengers
  4. EgyptAir [Egypt] - 6.4 million
  5. Kenya Airways [Kenya] - 5 million
  6. Royal Air Maroc [Morocco] - 5 million
  7. South African Airways [South Africa] - 4.6 million
  8. Tunisair [Tunisia] - 2.474 million

Air Peace is the only airline on the list that isn’t partly or wholly state-owned. It’s a regional carrier that mostly serves West Africa, but also appears to fly to Jeddah in the United Arab Emirates, Mumbai in India and London in the UK.

The airline has recently been in the news, with safety concerns, fraud and money-laundering charges in the US and a libel case against investigative journalists in Nigeria.

The list can also be seen here, here, here, here, here, here and here. But is it accurate?

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What’s the source?

The first sign that the list is bogus is that it gives no source for the statistics.

The African Airlines Association’s (Afraa) 2023 annual report lists passenger numbers for 2022 provided by the airlines themselves. This paints a different picture:

  1. Ethiopian Airlines: 11,327,000
  2. EgyptAir: 8,200,000
  3. Safair: 6,649,000
  4. Royal Air Maroc: 5,684,000
  5. Air Algerie: 4,681,000
  6. Kenya Airways: 2,728,000
  7. Air Peace: 2,636,000
  8. Air Mauritius: 1,112,000

More recent Afraa estimates for the first quarter (Q1, or January to March) and second quarter (Q2, or April to June) of 2023 are similar:


(Source: African Airlines Association and OAG. “Traffic” refers to passenger traffic, as opposed to freight or cargo traffic.)

Other publicly available data is from Cirium, an aviation analytics company. Here are the first eight on its list of scheduled seats on African airlines for the year ending May 2023:

  1. Ethiopian Airlines: 21,330,678
  2. EgyptAir: 13,907,772
  3. Royal Air Maroc: 9,273,308
  4. Safair: 8,569,941
  5. Air Algerie: 7,871,598
  6. Kenya Airways: 8,071,408
  7. Airlink: 4,740,769
  8. Tunisair: 4,121,442

Another way to measure the size of an airline is the size of its fleet. Afraa’s annual report includes the number of planes carriers owned in 2023. Here are the top eight:

  1. Ethiopian Airlines: 129
  2. EgyptAir: 82
  3. Airlink: 67
  4. Air Algerie: 55
  5. Royal Air Maroc: 50
  6. Kenya Airways: 32
  7. Air Peace Limited: 20
  8. Tunisair: 17

None of these lists put Air Peace at the top, although the Nigerian carrier is clearly one of Africa’s major airlines.

All false claims that affect people’s choices and perceptions are harmful. Africa Check has previously examined the size and changing fortunes of African airlines.

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