What is the situation in Niger, and what does it mean for aviation?
The History (in brief)
A military coup in July 2023 led to the airspace closing from July 26-28. The airspace reopened in August, but only to flights heading to and from specific places, and only at and above FL250, covered in NOTAMs like this one:
The same applied to the major airports DRRN/Niamey, DRZR/Zinder and DRZA/Agadez.
As of August 6 the airspace closed again by NOTAM A0999/23 (valid to August 8, 23:59, but likely to be extended):
THE NIGER REPUBLIC AIRSAPCE FROM GROUND TO ILL, INCLUDING ALL ATS ROUTES, IS CLOSED FOR ALL FLIGHTS.
Where can I fly?
Those aren’t typos by me – it does say ‘AIRSAPCE’ and it does say ‘ILL’ which means if you search ‘airspace’ it might not show. Make sure you find the relevant NOTAMs and are clear on the areas covered by them. Consider whether NOTAMs are being issued in a timely way, and whether they cover the full situation.
Right now, it means the airspace of Niger is not available for overflights, and the airports of Niger are not available.
However, Niger’s airspace is not clearly defined. It crosses two control areas – the DRRR/Niamey FIR and an area controlled by neighbouring Chad within their FTTT/N’Djamena FIR. The airspace of Niger and its territory is not available.
What does this mean?
Niger’s airspace is fairly key because it is a large airspace in mid Africa linking both the east and west Africa and providing a north south routing region as well.
The closures of Sudan, South Sudan and Libya airspace mean significant detours to now also avoid Niger airspace. South Sudan’s airspace above FL245 was controlled by the HSSS/Khartoum FIR so remains closed to overflights.
Additionally, some operators are having issues with Nigeria withholding money (from ticket sales) leading to them avoiding overflying Nigeria as well.
Algeria offers an option for flight routing between Europe and West Africa, but bear in mind Algeria offers extremely limited diversion options in its middle and souther portions.
There are warnings in place for Mali – operators should conduct a risk assessment prior to operating over Mali. The UK and FAA warn against flights below FL260. Find the EASA CZIBs for Mali here.
Northern Ethiopia has a conflict zone in the Northern Tigray region. A ceasefire is currently in place, but the situation remains volatile. EASA have withdrawn the CZIB, but relevant information can still be found here.
Operators routing between West Africa and the Middle East can expect significant increase in routings in order to avoid Yemen airspace (also closed) and South Sudan/Sudan.
Operators will need to consider:
- Where they can fly
- Conduct full risk assessments for this
- What diversion options are available
- What this means in terms of fuel ad FTLs
- FlightRadar estimates an addition 1 hour or 1000 kms for routes between Europe and South Africa.
- Monitor the situation
- Military intervention from neighbouring ECOWAS countries may result in increasing hazards
Where can I find more information?
EASA CZIBs provide a full overview of current State warnings and cautions for airspace with conflicts, and should be reviewed fully. See the full list here.