These are the South African air routes that make the most money

Travel intelligence group, OAG, has published its annual tracker of the world’s most lucrative air routes – ranking the highest revenue generating routes around the globe for some of the world’s largest airlines.

The British Airways air route between London’s Heathrow airport and JFK International Airport in New York is the biggest money turner globally, having made $1.16 billion in the 2018/19 review period – between April 2018 and March 2019.

This route saw 42,680 scheduled flights over the period, earning $27,159 per hour.

OAG’s data showed that this is the world’s only billion-dollar air route, with next closest being Qantas Airways’ Melbourne-Sydney route, which earned just over $860 million over the same period.

South African air routes

For African air routes, the most lucrative is Emirates’ route between OR Tambo International and Dubai International Airport, which generated over $315 million (R4.8 billion) in the 2018/19 review period.

This is followed by British Airways’ OR Tambo – Heathrow route, which made $295 million (R4.5 billion) over the period.

The domestic Joburg to Cape Town route for South African Airways was ranked as the fifth most lucrative on the continent, pulling in $185 million (R2.8 billion).

Two other routes, featuring Cape Town, are also listed – Cape Town to Dubai (R2.7 billion) and Cape Town to London (R2.65 billion)

These are the highest revenue-generating routes in Africa:

Route Airline Revenue (USD) ZAR
JNB – DXB Emirates $315.7 million R4.8 billion
JNB – LHR British Airways $295.2 million R4.5 billion
CAI – JED Saudi Arabian Airlines $242.2 million R3.7 billion
LAD – LIS TAAG Angloa Airlines $231.7 million R3.5 billion
CPT – JNB South African Airways $184.9 million R2.8 billion
CAI – DXB Emirates $181.4 million R2.75 billion
CPT – DXB Emirates $176.7 million R2.7 billion
ABJ – CDG Air France $175.0 million R2.66 billion
CPT – LHR British Airways $174.6 million R2.65 billion
MRU – DXB Emirates $164.0 million R2.5 billion

Previous data published by OAG showed that South Africa features prominently on the list of the busiest domestic flights in Africa and the Middle East.

In addition to the Cape Town/Johannesburg flight – which is the 11th busiest domestic route in the world – Durban/Johannesburg was named as the third busiest route in the MEA region.

“Ultimately of course, revenue alone is just a metric and for many of these routes high frequency wide-bodied services means high operating costs. However, it is equally likely that for each of these airlines operating profits are amongst the highest on their respective networks,” the group said.

“Our analysis suggests that there is unlikely to be any great movement either in or out of these tables in the next few years until capacity becomes available and then of course at both ends of the route which for many of these airlines will ensure their status for some time.”

SAA financial troubles

While South African Airways (SAA) features as having one of the most lucrative routes in the world, it goes against OAG’s analysis in that it is not turning a profit at all.

The group is yet to publish its 2017/18 financial results, which are now 17 months overdue, but many analysts expect that the group has just continued to extend its losses.

Estimates which have been put out by aviation experts put the bankrupt airline’s 2018 losses at around R6 billion, with 2019 estimates at R9 billion.

The group’s former CEO, Vuyani Jarana, tendered his resignation in June, which was followed by the group chair JB Magwaza quitting in July.

SAA was listed among several other state companies that would receive a government bailout from the country’s contingency funds.


Read: The busiest flight routes in the world includes this one in South Africa

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These are the South African air routes that make the most money