The best and worst Airlines and Airports for flight delays in the Middle East & Africa

Over the last decade, the aviation industry in the Middle East & Africa has become a core contributor to the area’s economy. After the pandemic, the demand for travel and tourism soared through the roof and has been growing ever since. 2023 was an exceptional year for the aviation sector as figures are decisively catching up to pre-COVID numbers. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports a 33.3% increase in traffic for Middle Eastern airlines and an impressive 38.7% rise for African ones, compared to 2022, indicating a strong recovery.

However, the future of aviation is uncertain with current problems like geopolitical conflicts, increased fuel prices and staff shortages, just to name a few. These, among many other variables, are costing the industry and travellers time and money as a result of many delayed and canceled flights.

The BestBrokers team wanted to find out which airlines and airports stood out as the most punctual ones last year and which ones couldn’t keep up with 2023’s dynamic events. We analysed flight statistics for the past year from air travel information company OAG and discovered that the least dependable airline in the Middle East & Africa for 2023 is Tunisair with a total of 58.57% delayed or canceled flights and the least punctual airport is Kuwait with 53.16% of delays and cancelations.

The Worst Airlines in the Middle East & Africa

Since October 2023, the air travel sector as well as all industries in the area in general have been directly impacted by the Israel-Hamas war. More and more companies began experiencing flight delays when traveling to and from the Middle East and Africa. Some airlines like Delta, Lufthansa, American Airlines and Air France have completely ceased flying to Tel Aviv for the time being.

Although Tunisair marked a 14% rise in passenger numbers in 2023 compared to the previous year, from the data we analyzed from OAG, their on-time performance(OTP) has been anything but good throughout 2023 with a total of 58.57% delayed or canceled flights. The second place is for Air Algerie with 46.29% of flights arriving with more than 15-minute delays. Surprisingly, Turkish Airlines, the largest airline in the area, comes in third place with 42.18% of flights canceled or delayed.

The Best Airlines in the Middle East & Africa

Oman Air celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2023, making the number one position for the most punctual airline even more fitting. According to our research, 93.46% of its 46,168 flights over the past year landed on time and only 0.26% were canceled. To answer the rising demand in tourism Oman Air increased the frequency of popular routes and added new destinations to its schedule. The airline also purchased a new Boeing 737 MAX 8, expanding its fleet size to 52.

Safair’s second place is well-deserved without a doubt after the airline won five prestigious awards at the Civil Aviation Industry Awards in November 2023. Safair achieved an outstanding 91.97% OTP score at the end of the year. In 2023, just 7.99% of the 55,814 flights were canceled and 0.03% were delayed. In 2024, it plans to add four new regional flights to its network, as any successful airline would do.

Royal Jordanian generated an admirable performance of 86.56% on-time arrivals in 2023, lining up with the 60th anniversary since its establishment. The carrier is boosting its fleet and executing its plans to expand its international presence in 2024.

The Airports Where Your Flight Is Most Likely to Be Delayed

The Middle East & Africa region is positioned in the heart of the Israel-Hamas war which also limits some of the air space in the area, leading to longer waits, possible delays and weary travelers, a lot of which postpone their trips until the conditions are calmer. Since the start of the current geopolitical conflict, military presence at airports in the region has increased and local air traffic control is diverting routes to avoid air space over Israel.

Another rising concern is the worldwide shortage of aviation personnel, which in the Middle East & Africa is estimated to be about 13% or a deficit of 300,000 employees over the next 10 years. The region has perhaps the fastest-developing aviation industry globally and the staffing issue is expected to be a priority on their agenda.

The worst performance by an airport in the region, based on our findings, goes to Kuwait International Airport with a whopping 52.45% of its flights delayed and 0.70% canceled. Last year, Kuwait experienced a 26% rise in passenger traffic, along with 23% more outbound aircraft compared to 2022, which alone was a solid predisposition for more delays and cancellations.

To alleviate congestion and overcrowding, the country is currently building a second terminal at the Kuwait International Airport which is in its final phase of construction.

The Tunis-Carthage International Airport finished 2023 as the second-worst one in the Middle East & Africa with 45.69% delayed or canceled flights. Tunisia is another country that saw an increase in passenger traffic of 21.9% for the first 10 months of 2023. As with many other airports, new routes were introduced in January 2023. This, paired with the recent armed conflict in the area has increased the air traffic furthermore, leading to delays and plane diversion.

Turkey’s Antalya airport also ended the year with one of the lowest rankings with 43.92% delayed or canceled flights. Last February, the country was hit by a destructive 7.8 earthquake, which claimed many lives but also affected the region’s economy. The aviation sector was no exception with some airports re-directing traffic, some closing completely and many passengers postponing their travels until the situation cleared out.

The Best Airports in the Middle East & Africa

The best airport for 2023 in the Middle East & Africa according to the data we gathered is the King Shaka International Airport in Durban, South Africa with 10.13% delayed or canceled flights. With a quickly expanding network, it is the third biggest airport in the country, managing to recover 68% of pre-COVID passengers during the 2022/23 financial year.

The second place for the most punctual airport is the Sharjah International Airport (UAE) with 89.26% on-time arrivals. It has been a leading one for the region over the past few years. A renovation project for more than $410 million is set in place for the next 2 years, involving a new terminal for arrivals, expansion of the airport’s infrastructure and overall renovations. The country is one of the biggest investors in the sustainability field, introducing the first electrical vehicles for the airport in 2023 and aiming for completely carbon-free public transportation by 2050.

From the information we found, the third most punctual airport for the region is Africa’s biggest and busiest one: O.R. Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg with 86.87% of timely flights. In 2023 the airport recovered 81% of passenger traffic compared to 2019 levels. It is a hub for investors and businesses from all over the world. A good example is South African Airways’ investment in a luxurious ‘First-Class Platinum lounge’ for the airport, expected later in 2024 as an initiative to promote excellent service and boost passenger experience on-ground.


To come up with the list of best and worst airlines the team at BestBrokers analysed OAG’s On-time performance (OTP) data from January-December 2023. We calculated the shares of delayed and canceled flights for all airlines with over 20,000 flights last year, comparing them to the total number of flights each one had to come up with the ranking for the best and worst-performing airlines in 2023.

Furthermore, we looked into the busiest airports in the Middle East & Africa with over 20,000 flights for 2023 and ranked them based on delays and on-time departures to establish the best-operating ones. Additional information was sourced from the IATA and the official websites of airlines and airports.