Well-situated carriers scurry to connect world with Africa

Well-situated carriers scurry to connect world with Africa
This picture taken on March 16, 2013 shows a Turkish Airlines aircraft parked at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

ISTANBUL/DUBAI - Air carriers and governments in the Middle East and North Africa are increasingly turning their attention southward.

By opening more routes to destinations across Africa, they hope to take full advantage of their home region's position as a logical waypoint for business travelers and tourists coming from Europe, North America and Asia. They expect such traffic to grow over the medium to long term.

In 2014, Turkish Airlines launched new flights to six African cities. Its number of weekly Africa-bound flights rose to 200, up nearly 200 per cent from four years earlier. The carrier, which now serves 38 destinations in Africa, expects the number of international passengers headed to the continent will grow 5 per cent a year, on average, between now and 2031. To Europe, it projects a 3 per cent growth rate.

Turkish Airlines ferried a record total of 5.56 million passengers in 2014, up 16 per cent on the year. The Turkish government hopes to capitalise on the airline's momentum. Last June, it began building a new airport in Istanbul; 120 million passengers are expected to pass through the facility in 2021, making it the world's third-largest airport.

Similarly, Morocco is pushing to expand Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport, with plans to finish renovating Terminal 1 by the end of 2016 and nearly double the number of annual passengers to 14 million. Terminal 2 is slated for a revamp later on, with the airport aiming for 23 million passengers by 2030.

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