From cows on the runway to regional wars, the hazards that face African airlines are many. But a few are overcoming these obstacles to make the continent more connected than ever.
The past year has been especially difficult for airlines. The Arab Spring in North Africa and pirates off the Kenyan coast have had a severe impact on tourism, the lifeblood of the aviation industry.
Add to this the doleful contention by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) that the accident rate on the continent is 12 times the global norm, and it appears African travellers must be a hardy lot. But some airlines have evaded the dismal reputation to help build a link from the traditionally neglected continent to the rest of the world.
"African economic growth has been high and stable during the last decade," says Andy Gordon, a market forecast director for Airbus.
As a result, Airbus expects African air traffic to increase by 6.5 per cent annually between now and 2020, against a global figure of 5.4 per cent, says Mr Gordon. From 2021 to 2030, Africa's air traffic should rise by 4.9 per cent a year, against 4.3 per cent for the world as a whole.
With competitors such as Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and a host of European carriers piling in to take advantage of the new-found desire for African travel, local airlines are having to raise their game.
Kenya Airways is one of the African carriers to have taken on this challenge. The airline flies to 55 cities worldwide, including 45 in Africa.
It flew 11 per cent more passengers between Europe and Africa last year compared with the year before, and its Middle East and Far East business increased by almost 20 per cent over that period, the airline's figures show. It plans to increase destinations by 60 per cent by 2015, and triple its fleet to 107 aircraft by 2020 so that it can fly to every country on the continent.
As a result, it is nipping at the heels of EgyptAir and South African Airways, the largest operators on the continent.
Ethiopian Airlines, the other East African player, is also expanding its operations. It ended last year with an operating profit of 1.6 billion birr (Dh341.2 million). The company has set itself the ambitious target of $10bn (Dh36.73bn) annual operating income, and plans to increase its fleet from 46 aircraft to 70.
It will be the first African airline to fly the new Boeing Dreamliner, which it expects to receive early next year. Ethiopian Airlines has 34 aircraft on order, including the Airbus A350, making it one of the largest-ever orders on the African continent. The big challenge now is to improve the continent's woeful aviation safety record. Iata notes that most of the accidents in Africa involve non-member airlines, often independent operators using elderly Soviet-era aircraft.
"An accident rate in Africa that is over 12 times the global average is not acceptable. Improvements can happen," said Giovanni Bisignani, Iata's director general and chief executive, at the announcement of annual air accident rates earlier this year.
The economic benefits of expanding African aviation will be significant. The continent's airlines are expanding their routes to the north, and also linking up underserved African routes. Those wanting to fly from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Abuja in Nigeria will no longer have to detour via Paris.
As for the cows on the runway, they may remain a problem.