Carriers in Mali given 72 hours to use or lose landing slots
Authorities in Mali have given airlines operating in the country just 72 hours to decide if they want to keep their slots. The demand comes following the increase in political tensions in West Africa over the last week.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) last week had hit Mali with economic sanctions and closed borders with the country after delays of previously promised elections following a 2020 military coup. There have been tensions in Mali as a result of the move by West Africa’s main regional bloc. Just yesterday, thousands of Malians took to the streets and rallied after the army called for protests over the sanctions.
Amid the sensitive situation, Mali’s ministers have been taking a strong stance. The country’s transportation minister emphasized yesterday that airlines performing services in the nation would have 72 hours from today to confirm to civil aviation authorities if they intended to continue operating.
“Beyond this time, their time slots will be attributed to other airlines in order to ensure a continuity of service.” – Dembele Madina Sissoko via Reuters
This statement follows the fact that several airlines have already indefinitely suspended flights to Bamako, Mali’s capital, following the sanctions. International powerhouses such as Air France stopped flights to the city. Meanwhile, regional outfits such as Air Cote d’Ivoire, Air Burkina, and Air Senegal also decided to halt services.
A transitional government has been heading Mali since August 2020. This was when a military coup ousted Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta from his position as president of the country. During the same month, a United Nations Antonov An-72 crashed at Mali’s Gao Airport. The UN effort was part of a mission to help stabilize the country.
The current leaders agreed to an 18-month transition period, which should have led to an election next month. However, the leaders since changed their minds, referring to security issues, including militant uprisings as reasons for the elections not going ahead as planned.
As a result, ECOWAS responded with a hardline approach. In total, there are 15 member states of the organization, which are split by Zone A and Zone B. Mali is in Zone A, alongside Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
A volatile situation
Tensions are evidently running high in the region, creating a domino effect of drastic measures. Airlines operating in Mali will be having to make tough decisions this weekend as they mull over their options. Mali is an important market for several carriers, and passengers need sufficient connectivity to leave and enter the country. However, operators also don’t want to be caught up in the middle of a political conflict in West Africa.