Air France Resumes Mali Route with Third-Party Plane and Crews Amid Security Concerns

Air France has announced that it will resume flights to Mali starting Friday, using a plane and crews from a third-party company. The airline had suspended its Mali route in early August following the coup in neighbouring Niger.

In coordination with the French Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC) and Malian authorities, Air France spokesperson confirmed that service to Bamako from Paris-Charles de Gaulle will recommence on October 13, 2023. The company is also working closely with Burkinabè authorities to resume flights to Burkina Faso as soon as possible. However, service to Niamey, Niger, remains suspended until further notice.

Flights between Paris and Bamako will operate three times a week (Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays) using a Boeing 777-200 ER aircraft provided by the Portuguese company EuroAtlantic Airways. The flights will no longer be operated by Air France’s own planes. The crew will also consist of employees from EuroAtlantic Airways, which specializes in regular flights as well as rental and charter services.

Air France assures that the aircraft provided by EuroAtlantic Airways complies with all French and European regulations. It is equipped with 30 seats in the Business cabin, 24 seats in the Premium Economy cabin, and 239 seats in the Economy cabin. The onboard services will be the same as those offered on Air France-operated flights. Passengers whose flights are cancelled will be rebooked on available flights or provided with the option to modify their reservation free of charge.

The decision to use a third-party company and crew for this connection is due to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs “formally” advising against French citizens traveling to Mali, including airline crew, due to the tense security situation. In March, Air France’s pilots’ union called on its members to exercise their right of withdrawal if they did not wish to fly to Bamako.

Security concerns have been raised by various authorities. The American federal agency overseeing aviation (FAA) cited an “increased risk” for commercial aircraft overflying or serving Mali due to the installation of anti-aircraft missile batteries by the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Following Air France’s suspension of the Paris-Bamako route, Malian authorities revoked the company’s authorization to operate the line, considering it a breach of the operating authorization.

Tensions between France and Mali have escalated since the military took control in Bamako in August 2020. The junta expelled French forces in 2022 and shifted its political and military alliances towards Russia. This strained relationship has impacted air travel between the two countries.

Air France emphasizes that the safety of its customers and crews is its top priority and closely monitors the geopolitical situation in the areas it serves and flies over.


Source: Africa News