Emirates has frequent promotions where the airline offers its Ethiopian and Kenyan customers a free UAE visa when booking a ticket to Dubai to further increase its share of the continent’s air traffic.

Offering free tourist visas is but one of the popular marketing play employed by some airlines as they aggressively push for an ever greater share of Africa’s air traffic. Dubai is indeed a favoured holiday destination for individuals from across the region and Emirates is planning to grow by 40 per cent within Africa over the next decade, with the addition of 10 passenger destinations, potentially including Mozambique, Benin, Togo, Equatorial Guinea and Congo, while investment in its fleet will increase from $7 billion to $12 billion “within a few years”.

Airlines from across the world are competing to gain an upperhand in the battle for African air traffic…

cargo-africanEthiopian Airlines’ chief has been particularly vocal his rallying cries against Gulf domination of the African air market, and recently increased the frequency of his airline’s flights to Doha to three times a week. “We have tremendous competition coming from the Gulf carriers,” said CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, warning that African carriers risked being ‘swallowed and eaten for lunch’. “All of us put together – Kenya Airways, Ethiopian, South African, Egyptair, Air Morocco, TAG Angola, CAM Air, Rwandair, Arik Air and so on – have only 20% of the market, and it will be a big, big challenge if we don’t do something to at least maintain 50% of the market.”

Recently Qatar Airways opened a new route to Djibouti in a first for a mainstream flag carrier from the Gulf. Marwan Koleilat, Chief Commercial Officer for Qatar Airways noted that, “Djibouti is still underserved by international airlines though the destination has a huge potential with its untapped natural resources and tourist opportunities.”