On Friday, September 15th, Air France announced yet another extension of its flight suspension, now in effect until September 24th, including all flights to and from Mali and Burkina Faso. Flights bound for Niger, on the other hand, remain halted “until further notice.”
The French carrier, a prominent link between Europe and Africa, had initially suspended its services to Bamako (seven flights per week), Ouagadougou (five flights per week), and Niamey (four flights per week) on August 7th following the closure of Niger’s airspace due to a coup on July 26th, 2023. The Nigerien airspace was reopened on September 4th, with Air France indicating that their aircraft would resume overflying the Nigerien territory. However, they made it clear that the Niamey route would not be reinstated.
“In the wake of the coup in Niger and due to the ongoing geopolitical situation in the Sahel region, Air France finds it necessary to adjust its flight schedule to and from Niamey (Niger), Bamako (Mali), and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso),” stated a company spokesperson on Friday. “The suspension of flights to and from Bamako has been extended until September 24th, as has the suspension to and from Ouagadougou. Meanwhile, the service to Niamey remains suspended indefinitely.”
“In collaboration with the French authorities, the company continuously monitors the evolving geopolitical situation in the regions served and overflown by its aircraft, emphasizing the utmost priority it places on the safety of its passengers and crew,” the same source added. Air France had already extended this suspension on four prior occasions.
Slots Handed Over?
In retaliation, the Malian authorities, who stand in solidarity with the Nigerien coup leaders, revoked Air France’s authorization to operate flights between Paris and Bamako, citing a “significant breach” of its operating permit. This revocation is effective for the entire summer season, extending until October. The Malian National Civil Aviation Agency has also warned Air France of the possibility of reallocating its slots “to another requesting carrier.”