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TravelThe African Airlines That Should Be on Your Radar

20:40  09 may  2019
20:40  09 may  2019 Source:   cntraveler.com

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But these African airlines are not just upping the ante in terms of comfort and access, they also help start the experience of being there before touching South african airways . THE ESSENTIALS The Star Alliance member has been in operation for more than 80 years—and is a pioneer of many

But these African airlines are not just upping the ante in terms of comfort and access, they also help start the experience of being there before touching South african airways . THE ESSENTIALS The Star Alliance member has been in operation for more than 80 years—and is a pioneer of many

The African Airlines That Should Be on Your Radar© Getty

Exactly a year ago, if a New Yorker wanted to get to Nairobi, they were looking at around 24 hours of flight time and at least one plane change under the best of circumstances. But last October, Kenya Airways' new direct changed all that, shaving 10 hours off that flight time and eliminating the transfer. For those of us (and in the U.S., it's a lot of us) who want to travel far but don't have the luxury of time, it was a big deal. It's one example of how these days, the rising number of African airlines with conveniently U.S.-friendly routes is becoming the smartest way for us to explore the continent—and help us bop around from safari to jungle to beach once there.

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But these African airlines are not just upping the ante in terms of comfort and access, they also help start the experience of being there before touching 10 Leadership Books That Should Be on Your Radar Going Into 2019. Warren Buffett attributes his success to reading. To emulate his knack for

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It's worthwhile familiarizing yourself with, say Egyptair, perhaps, or Royal Air Maroc, two of the continent’s top-tier carriers who are aggressively expanding their service, both to Africa and intercontinentally. This rise in homegrown airlines more easily unlocks some destinations which were hard to reach for long-haul visitors as well as offering a ton of new direct flights from North America which make a quick trip more feasible (Casablanca is absolutely doable for a long weekend). That's not to say some of our own carriers are not doing their part to get us to the savanna sooner—United will launch a direct Newark to Cape Town flight this December. But these African airlines are not just upping the ante in terms of comfort and access, they also help start the experience of being there before touching down. Below, a quick primer to the top six to get you into north, south, and east Africa right now.

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SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS

THE ESSENTIALS The Star Alliance member has been in operation for more than 80 years—and is a pioneer of many things, including in-flight entertainment, which it trialled, then discontinued, in 1948. SAA spent much of the latter half of the 20th century under an apartheid-powered boycott. Its global profile began rising again in 1990, when that system was lifted. This rebound featured an aggressive global program including resuming services to JFK in November 1991.

FLY THIS… internationally and within the continent. There are direct flights to its Johannesburg hub from JFK and Washington-Dulles; from there, SAA has extensive service throughout sub-Saharan Africa and its own, low-cost subsidiary, Mango, whose planes are painted bright yellow. Ultra-luxury Botswana safaris are accessed via its capital, Maun, a short hop on SAA from JNB; likewise, the sand dunes of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast can be accessed via its capital, Windhoek. If you’re combining a safari with a visit to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, SAA operates regular connections there, too.

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BEST FEATURE SAA’s hub in Johannesburg has some of the most convenient connections across Sub-Saharan Africa—even better, the gleaming airport was radically overhauled to prep for the soccer world cup in 2010, so its facilities are among the best of any major city in the region.

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ETHIOPIAN

THE ESSENTIALS The continent’s largest and most successful airline is an anchor of the Star Alliance network, a member since 2011; its profits last year hit $223 million, a number many European and North American carriers eyeball enviously. It has earned countless accolades from airline insiders for both its planes and its services, regularly earning the title of best airline in Africa from both passenger and industry surveys. One reason: the average age of the planes in its fleet of more than 100 planes is just 6 years, compared with 15 for fellow Star Alliance member United.

FLY THIS… internationally and within the continent. Ethiopian has direct flights to the largest number of north American destinations: Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, and Washington-Dulles, with service to its hub in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. From there, it has the largest network of Sub-Saharan flights too, so if you’re looking to cram a continent-spanning trip into a single visit, opt for Ethiopian: connect to Entebbe in Uganda for gorilla-trekking, or Dar es Salaam to head to Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park for lion-spotting or scoot down to Maputo in Mozambique for some R&R on its beachfront.

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BEST FEATURE Its aggressive expansion and investment in startup carriers across the continent. Ethiopian is underwriting the relaunch of defunct Zambia Airways via an investment of $30 million, and bankrolled the newly launched Chadian Airlines. It operates Malawian Airlines for that country’s government, and has plans to develop another new airline, this time in Nigeria.

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ROYAL AIR MAROC

THE ESSENTIALS Morocco’s national carrier is headquartered in Casablanca, its largest city. In addition to direct flights from JFK and Washington-Dulles, the airline just added service to Miami three times weekly; from June, it will also shuttle to and from Boston. It has just begun delivery of a brand new clutch of jet lag-busting Boeing Dreamliner planes.

FLY THIS… internationally, especially if you’re an American Airlines loyalist or another One World airline: Royal Air Maroc is scheduled to join that alliance next year. As a result, keep an eye on other American hubs stateside, like Dallas-Forth Worth and Los Angeles, for additional service. Morocco’s a compact country, but internal transit can be surprisingly challenging, so RAM’s network of regular flights from its Casablanca hub to destinations like Marrakesh and Tangier is vital.

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2. Kenya Eastern African countries are another great value for leisure travel, with Uganda For our money, the Riviera Nayarit and the sleepy surf town of Sayulita should be on your shortlist if If you like your under-the- radar vacay with a slice of luxury, you’ll want to head up the coast a bit to Punta

BEST FEATURE The loyalty scheme is reassuringly called Safar Flyer—the perfect, if inadvertent, pun. The 787s, though, are the real draw, with their pressurized cabins and lighting able to minimize jet lag better than any other long-haul aircraft.

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KENYA

THE ESSENTIALS If you’re a SkyTeam loyalist, this is the only member in the continent—and Delta has just signed up to codeshare with Kenya Airways, streamlining connections to or from anywhere in the U.S. The carrier is also nearing the end of a ten year-long expansion program, Project Mawingu (Swahili for ‘clouds’), aimed at adding 24 new destinations to its network—the most high-profile of which was New York-JFK last fall. It also includes Guangzhou, China, and a seasonal routing to Rome, which resumes next month.

FLY THIS… internationally and within the continent. The JFK service was initially announced as daily, before the airline cut back frequency citing soft numbers; Delta’s commitment means that the schedule will return to daily operating in June. Use this flight to connect in Nairobi across eastern and southern Africa: if you want to explore the coast of East Africa, like Zanzibar in Tanzania, Mozambique’s Bazaruto archipelago, consider routing via NBO.

BEST FEATURE The airline offers a free, four-hour safari for anyone with a long layover in Nairobi. The stopover package will whisk you to the nearby national park, for the cost of a transit visa ($21).

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LOCAL INSPIRATION The socks in the dopp kit are shaped like lion paws.

EGYPTAIR

THE ESSENTIALS Founded in 1932, EgyptAir struggled in recent decades, mostly thanks to the political instability in the region and the Arab Spring. It survived, though, and is now taking delivery of new, Boeing Dreamliner planes to operate on its long haul routes; the first country to be serviced with this sparkly new craft is America. Egyptair is a great option, too, if you’re tired of badly behaved, boozed-up seatmates—it doesn’t serve alcohol on any of its flights.

FLY THIS… internationally. Another Star Alliance member, it currently flies between Cairo and JFK, with an additional three times-weekly service to Washington-Dulles earmarked to start in June. If you’re planning to explore North Africa, there is regular domestic service to both Luxor and Alexandria, as well as to Algiers, Morocco—or you could even scoot down to Chad’s capital N’Djamena to explore the new, ultra-luxury Camp Nomade.

BEST FEATURE The in-flight magazine made headlines last year for its bizarre Drew Barrymore cover story—including choice quotes encouraging overweight women to work on both their weight and willpower—which the actress’ rep called hogwash.

LOCAL INSPIRATION Its mascot is the ancient Egyptian, falcon-headed god of the sun, Horus.

RWANDAIR

THE ESSENTIALS The government-owned carrier of this small African nation has ambitious plans to expand to North America. It already flies daily from Kigali to London-Gatwick, using sparkling new Airbus A330Neos which feature business, economy, and premium economy cabins—the first African carrier to offer the latter.

FLY THIS… soon, internationally. Rwandair has received clearance for a New York-Kigali flight, which will stop en route in Accra, Ghana. Initially slated to start in June of this year, there’s no firm rescheduled date; it’s likely, though, to begin before the end of 2019. Until then, consider connecting in London: book a flight to LGW (Norwegian and British Airways both operate from the U.S. to this secondary airport) and connect to Rwandair’s service, which flies down to Kigali with a brief stop to collect a few passengers in Brussels.

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LOCAL INSPIRATION An in-flight mural on the bulkheads is called Imigongo, in honor of a traditional Rwandan art and inspired by the country’s craggy terrain.

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