Harare-London most unserved air-route in Africa

Harare-London most unserved air-route in Africa

The air route from Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, to London is the most unserved in Africa.  

According to a new study by Airbus titled Exploring the horizons – “A study of unserved air routes to, from and within Africa” the intercontinental route between Harare and London is Africa’s most important unserved route, based on the recorded Origin-Destination (O&D) traffic levels during the reference period of the study.

The report makes for interesting reading. Following is a summary with extracts from the report, which can be downloaded from the Airbus website.

“Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, is situated in the country’s northeast and has an estimated population of 1.8 million.

Zimbabwe’s air access is facilitated by Air Zimbabwe and Fastjet Zimbabwe, both local airlines. Most flights to and from the country are operated by foreign carriers.

“Air connectivity during the evaluated period in the study was primarily limited to destinations in surrounding countries, with the longest non-stop flights being Ethiopian Airlines’ flights to or from Addis Ababa.

“The intercontinental route between Harare and London appears to be Africa’s most important unserved route, based on the recorded O&D traffic levels during the reference period of this study.

Travel for tourism purposes 

“People mainly travel between London and Harare for tourism purposes, with Victoria Falls undoubtedly being one of the primary attractions. Additionally, about 170,000 people born in Zimbabwe were known to live in the UK in 2020, up from 21,000 in 1991.

“Visiting Friends and Family (VFR) traffic therefore also plays a role. The historical relationship between Zimbabwe and the UK contextualises this situation.

British Airways used to perform non-stop flights on the route between Harare and London. Available data that go back to 2005 show that BA operated 777-200(ER)s on the route at that time.

“They performed two to three flights per week each way, with an average capacity of about 265 seats per flight. These operations were suspended at the end of October 2007.

“In parallel to BA’s operations from London Heathrow, Air Zimbabwe operated the route between Harare and London Gatwick and continued doing so until April 2012.

“Back in the IATA-summer of 2006, Air Zimbabwe’s service reached nearly a daily flight in both directions. They deployed their 767-200ER with a capacity close to 200 seats.

“BA’s and Air Zimbabwe’s service together reached about 40 flights per week in each direction in mid-2006.

“Air Zimbabwe’s service, however, knew some periods with service-interruptions. The route features some clear seasonal variations in demand, with peak demand occurring around Easter, in August and the end of the year.

“Obviously, these moments of peak demand are linked to the holiday periods in the Northern hemisphere. From early 2015 to the end of 2019, traffic levels grew at a CAGR of 2.3%.

“During the peak month of 2019, average traffic levels went up as high as 195 passengers per day each way (PPDEW). Traffic already recovered from the pandemic and for the period evaluated in this study, it even had increased to a small 20% beyond the pre-pandemic levels.

“Relationships between the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe are reported to slowly improve, what could create the right environment for a future accelerated traffic growth on the route.

“Interesting to see is that Emirates and Qatar Airways together attract about half of the traffic on the city pair even if the routing via Dubai or Doha is much longer than the itinerary that connects via Addis Ababa, Kigali, Nairobi and Johannesburg.”

Forecasted captured traffic according to the Airbus study would be sufficient to operate six weekly flights each way with a widebody aircraft in the 250 seats-category (e.g. A330-200/- 800) from 2026 onwards, or more than five weekly frequencies with a widebody aircraft in the 280-330 seats-category (e.g. A330-300/-900 or A350-900). These frequencies are averaged over the calendar year but could vary depending on the time of the year, aligning with observed seasonal traffic variations.

African cities with largest appeal 

According to Airbus Market Intelligence and Consulting Director Geert Lemaire the study further reveals that some of the most appealing unserved routes are concentrated in a few African cities.

“Lagos, Cape Town, Nairobi, Dakar and Douala each have multiple routes ranking amongst Africa’s top unserved routes today,” says Lemaire.

“Next to these, there are different examples of routes to and from other major cities that round the top tier of Africa’s unserved routes. The uppermost segment of Africa’s presently unserved routes are long-haul intercontinental flights to North America, Europe and the Indian Subcontinent.”

West Africa the most unserved region 

In the study West Africa as a subregion sees the highest number of unserved routes. Nine out of the top 15 unserved routes identified in the study start or end in West-Africa.

“With the region’s booming population, with its cultural and economic diversity, with the role it plays in international trade and especially when considering the growth forecast for the subregion, the potential to turn the unserved routes into actual ones is substantial.”

According to the report top unserved routes identified for Africa’s sub-Saharan region are:

▪ Harare – London

▪ Dakar – Libreville

▪ Johannesburg – Mumbai

▪ Abidjan – Douala

▪ Lagos – New York

▪ Abuja – Nairobi

▪ Lagos – Toronto

▪ Cape Town – Lagos

▪ Entebbe – London

▪ Dakar – Douala

▪ Lagos – Manchester

▪ Cape Town – Brussels

▪ Durban – London

▪ Nairobi – Washington

▪ Lagos – Houston

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