Over the next two decades the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects air traffic across Africa to grow by 4.7 per cent per year, with close on 300-million passengers in the air by 2035. Whether they’re flying for business or leisure they will need to check in their suitcases, pass through security, have their passport stamped at immigration and hopefully find a comfortable lounge to await their flight.

So it’s good news that a number of African airports have an eye fixed firmly on the future, with plans underway to extend, expand and refurbish airport facilities across the continent.

In Central Africa, Uganda is currently looking to grow its share of the eco-tourism market by improving Entebbe International Airport at a cost of $324-million. Construction on the three-phase project has already begun, and will see the construction of new departure and arrivals areas and improved check-in facilities.

Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has long been a bugbear for safari travellers to East Africa, but the Greenfield Terminal project will hopefully overhaul the experience for long-haul travellers. The new terminal will boast new check-in desks, air bridges and remote gates.

While the sun-soaked resorts on the Kenyan coastline have suffered from low occupancies due to security concerns, authorities are now hoping to boost demand for the region with a $55-million expansion of the airport at Malindi.

The airport is currently only capable of handling domestic traffic – typically via Nairobi – but an extension of the runway to 2.5-kilometres would allow international carriers to service the route with direct flights. The first phase of the works should be completed by December 2016, with the much-vaunted runway extension slated for 2017.

A short hop north, Ethiopian Airlines continues to cement its position as the leading carrier in Africa, and is now the only carrier on the continent to fly the 787 Dreamliner and the A350. To cater for the high-flying growth in traffic, Bole International Airport outside Addis Ababa is being expanded to accommodate up to 22-million passengers per year. However, with the forecast growth in traffic even the expanded airport will reach capacity by 2026. To future-proof the country against capacity issues plans are underway to build a 120-million passenger facility outside the capital, putting the Ethiopian airport on par with major world hubs such as Heathrow and Dubai.

While few travellers relish spending much time in the airport when jetting off on holiday, the airport experience is an unavoidable facet of long-haul life. If the developments in the pipeline come to fruition, travellers to Africa will soon be enjoying world-class services and facilities across the continent.

John Segar

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