Niger has reopened its airspace to commercial air traffic, bringing relief to airlines and passengers who faced disruptions in recent weeks due to the airspace closure. The decision comes several weeks after the military coup that rocked the nation, leading to uncertainty and operational challenges for airlines. While the reasons for the reopening have not been officially disclosed, it marks a positive step towards restoring normalcy in the region’s aviation sector.
Reopening of Niger’s Airspace
Niger’s airspace, which had been closed since the beginning of August, is now open to commercial flights, as announced by the new rulers of the country. The closure had been initiated amid concerns of a possible military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in response to the coup that took place on July 26.
The coup had led to the arrest of the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum by members of the presidential guard. Subsequently, state institutions were dissolved, and power was assumed by the “National Council for the Protection of the Fatherland.”
Impact of the Airspace Closure
The closure of Niger’s airspace had significant implications for airlines operating in the region. Carriers like Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Brussels Airlines, were forced to reroute flights to avoid Nigerien airspace. These detours resulted in flights to African destinations taking up to three and a half hours longer than usual, with some flights requiring refueling stops.
Air France had also temporarily suspended flights to and from Ouagadougou and Mali due to the airspace closure. Airlines have been increasingly cautious in their flight routing decisions, even avoiding the airspace over Libya and Sudan for security reasons.
The reopening of Niger’s airspace is a positive step toward normalizing air travel in the region and potentially reducing operational challenges for airlines. It suggests a degree of stability and confidence in the security situation within Niger, which is crucial for the resumption of regular flight schedules. However, the situation in Niger remains delicate, and the international community continues to monitor developments closely.