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Air France suspends flights to some nearby countries after Niger airspace closure

French nationals and other European citizens are evacuated from Sudan

An Air France plane carrying French nationals and other European citizens, who have been evacuated from Sudan via Djibouti, is seen at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, near Paris, France, April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq/File Photo

LONDON/GDANSK, Aug 7 (Reuters) – European carriers on Monday reported disruptions and suspended flights across the African continent after Niger’s junta closed its airspace on Sunday.

The junta on Monday braced for a response from the West African regional bloc after ignoring its deadline to reinstate the country’s ousted president or face the threat of military intervention.

The disruption adds to a band of African airspace facing geopolitical disruptions including Libya and Sudan, with some flights facing up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in detours.

“The closure of Niger’s airspace dramatically widens the area over which most commercial flights between Europe and southern Africa cannot fly,” tracking service FlightRadar24 said in a blog post.

Air France has suspended flights to and from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Bamako in Mali until Aug. 11, the company said on Monday, with longer flight times expected in the west African region.

A spokesperson added that Air France expected longer flight times from sub-Saharan hub airports and that flights between Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and Accra in Ghana were set to operate non-stop.

But aviation analyst James Halstead said that airlines would mostly have to find alternative routes and difficulties should be limited given the small number of African air connections.

“I’m not sure this is huge disruption … it will affect routes from Europe to Nigeria and South Africa and probably from the Gulf of the Ethiopia to West Africa,” he said.

Spokespeople for Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and Brussels Airlines said that flight times could be between one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half hours longer for rerouted flights.

British Airways in an emailed statement said it “apologised to those customers affected for the disruption to their journeys,” and said it was working hard to get them on their way again as quickly as possible.

Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach and Tim Hepher; Editing by Jason Neely, Mark Potter and Conor Humphries

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Joanna reports on airlines and travel in Europe, including tourism trends, sustainability and policy. She was previously based in Warsaw, where she covered politics and general news. She wrote stories on everything from Chinese spies to migrants stranded in forests along the Belarusian border. In 2022, she spent six weeks covering the war in Ukraine, with a focus on the evacuation of children, war reparations and evidence that Russian commanders knew of sexual violence by their troops. Joanna graduated from the Columbia Journalism School in 2014. Before joining Reuters, she worked in Hong Kong for TIME and later in Brussels reporting on EU tech policy for POLITICO Europe.


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