Civil aviation is an important ingredient of the transportation system because of the distances involved in such a large country and the dispersion of population, particularly in the south. The hydrocarbon industry is partly responsible for the mushrooming of the dozens of small airfields and airstrips needed to support oil and natural gas exploration and surveying in various areas. Civil aviation can be expected to receive special attention from the government--in spite of increasing resource constraints--because of the need for regional development on the Hauts Plateaux and for integrating the deep south desert region with the rest of the economy.

Internationally, Algeria's four major airports--Algiers, Constantine, Annaba, and Oran--dominate the scene and provide 97 percent of all services. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, airport infrastructure improvements administered by the Airport Directorate of the Ministry of Public Works included the extension of one of the two runways in Algiers, completion of improvements to airports in the south, construction of a second runway at Tamanrasset, and modernization of navigation facilities and equipment at several airports.

Air Algérie, which was established in 1946 as a charter airline by Air France, became the national carrier in 1972 when the Algerian government purchased full ownership. It was restructured in 1984, when domestic routes were assigned to the newly formed Inter-Air Services. In 1989 Inter-Air Services carried almost 2 million passengers on its internal network and a similar number on international flights. Air Algérie planned a major expansion of its passenger fleet in the 1990s, and its tenyear renewal program is expected to cost US$1.5 billion.

Air Algérie has daily passenger and air freight service to Europe and weekly service to the Middle East and Africa. Air France flies daily into Algiers and less frequently into other major airports. Other foreign carriers also have regularly scheduled flights.

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