- Air France planned to resume flights to Mali after a two-month hiatus but faced backlash from Malian authorities, resulting in the suspension of their plans.
- The airline intended to operate up to three weekly non-stop flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Bamako using a chartered aircraft.
- Air France also suspended flights to Niger and Burkina Faso following the political unrest in the region and has yet to resume operations in these countries.
The French national carrier has been forced to postpone its return to Mali as local authorities rejected its proposal to resume flights to the Malian capital of Bamako. The carrier suspended its service to the West African country in August following the military coup in neighboring Niger. It planned to reinstate the service on Friday but has faced significant backlash.
Flying back to Mali
Air France announced on Tuesday, October 10, its plans to return to Bamako after a two-month hiatus. The service was scheduled to start on Friday, October 13, and operate up to three times a week. According to Air Journal, a spokesperson from the airline said to AFP,
“In coordination with the French DGAC (Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Editor’s note) and the Malian authorities, Air France will resume service to Bamako from Paris-Charles de Gaulle from October 13, 2023.”
The service would have been operated non-stop from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Bamako Modibo Keita Airport (BKO) on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. However, Air France planned to use a Boeing 777-200ER chartered from Portugal’s EuroAtlantic Airways instead of deploying its own aircraft and crew on the route as a precautionary measure.
Photo: euroAtlantic Airways
The widebody aircraft has a total of 293 seats in a three-cabin configuration, with 239 seats in economy, 24 in premium economy, and 30 in business. While the equipment is similar to the one it used before the flight suspension, the French carrier would return to Mali with a significant frequency reduction. It previously served the CDG-BKO route daily with its own Triple Sevens.
Backlash from Mali
Just a day after its announcement, Air France faced backlash from Malian authorities, ultimately halting its plans to return to Bamako. On Wednesday, the Paris-based legacy carrier told AFP that the resumption was “postponed until further notice” following “additional requests from the Malian authorities.”
In a statement dated October 11, Mali’s Minister of Transport and Infrastructure stated that the National Aeronautical Authority is examining Air France’s request to resume scheduled flights. Consequently, the airline will remain suspended during the examination process.
Photo: Lukas Wunderlich via Shutterstock.
According to AFP, the right to resume flights had been granted without the consultation of all relevant authorities and interested parties within the Malian government. Part of the statement from the Ministry read,
“The Minister of Transport and Infrastructure reiterates his commitment to defending the sovereignty of Mali in accordance with the three principles decreed by His Excellency Colonel Assimi Goita. Namely, respect for the sovereignty of Mali, respect for the strategic choices and partnerships made by Mali, and taking into account the vital interests of the Malian people in all decisions.”
The Minister recalls that the airline unilaterally suspended flights without following the necessary procedures to notify the authorities and its customers. We contacted Air France, who had not been available for comment at the time of publishing.
Operations in West Africa
Following the early August coup and airspace closure in Niger, Air France also suspended flights to Niger (Niamey) and Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou). Together with Mali, the French carrier operated up to 16 weekly flights to the three West African destinations.
Photo: BOULENGER Xavier / Shutterstock
Over a month since the Republic of Niger reopened its airspace to commercial flights, Air France has not resumed to any of these cities. According to Air Journal, there are ongoing discussions between Air France and Burkina Faso authorities for the airline to resume flights to Ouagadougou “as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Air France and all other French aircraft have been banned from operating in Nigerien airspace, and flights to Niamey will also remain suspended until further notice.
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