Closure of Niger airspace puts strain on European-Southern African flights.

Key Points:

  • Following the coup, Niger's military leaders have shut down the country's airspace, anticipating possible military interference from neighboring nations.

  • This closure primarily impacts the commercial flight route between Europe and southern Africa, necessitating significant detours.

  • The airspace closure is confined to Niger's political borders and doesn't apply to the entire Niamey Flight Information Region.

NIAMEY — Niger's military authorities have sealed off the country's airspace due to potential military intrusions from nearby nations. Flights in midair at the time of the closure were either rerouted or diverted. Although the original Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) is set to expire on 7 Aug at 23:59 UTC, there's a strong possibility that this timeframe will be extended. It's worth noting that NOTAMs are officially released advisories regarding potential airspace and airport challenges.

The Niamey Flight Information Region (FIR) is denoted by DRRR, representing a section of airspace under Niger's air traffic management. However, Niger's FIR boundaries don't necessarily align with its political borders. Some parts of Niger fall under the Ndjamena FIR, while the Niamey FIR encompasses a significant chunk of Mali and all of Burkina Faso. Interestingly, the current NOTAM is limited to Niger's political confines, not covering the entirety of the Niamey FIR.

The situation in the African airspace is further complicated due to pre-existing flight restrictions. Commercial flights traveling between Europe and southern Africa have previously had to navigate around Libya and Sudan. The ongoing ban on flights over Sudan started in late July. However, it's worth noting that the nation's airspace has been practically off-limits since April 2023. This was due to a flare-up in tensions between two military factions in Sudan, which led to an armed standoff. Consequently, several nations, including prominent European ones like Germany, France, and the UK, and North American countries like the US and Canada, have barred their civil aircraft from traversing the Libyan airspace, known as the Tripoli FIR.

Given the additional restrictions over Niger, airlines operating between Europe and southern Africa now face a logistical challenge. They must incorporate over 1000 extra kilometers into their routes. This not only prolongs the flight duration but also increases fuel consumption.