The first union of Air France pilots has called on its members to “exercise their right of withdrawal” to no longer fly to Bamako because of the security situation in Mali, he told AFP on Thursday.
For its part, the airline, which performs a daily rotation between Paris and the Malian capital, said that “at this stage, the service to Bamako is unchanged”.
“By a union directive, the SNPL Air France-Transavia invites its members, and the pilots who so wish, to exercise their right of withdrawal in order not to carry out flights to Bamako, in the current state of affairs”, said the union office.
This statement comes as the US Aviation Supervisory Agency (FAA) recently spoke of an “increased risk” for commercial aircraft serving or flying over Mali “at all altitudes”.
“Mali is the scene of fighting, extremist activity, a deterioration of the rule of law, a growing foreign military presence, and the introduction of a sophisticated air defense system ”, explained the FAA in a message accompanying a “Notice for Air Missions” (NOTAM of its acronym in English) published on February 23.
In these documents noted this week by the newspaper Les Echos, the FAA had in particular mentioned the installation by the Russian group of Wagner mercenaries of SA-22 “Pantsir” batteries, capable of reaching a target 36 km away at a altitude of 15 km. Commercial aircraft in cruise flight operate at an altitude of approximately 12 km.
Asked by AFP, Air France said it was “permanently monitoring the evolution of the geopolitical situation of the territories it serves – including Mali – in order to ensure the highest level of flight safety and security”.
“The company is in constant contact with local and international authorities, as well as with the French DGAC (Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile, NDLR), which is competent in terms of overflight and service authorizations”.
“It monitors the situation in conflict zones and regularly analyzes the risk, in partnership with the European Commission,” Air France said.
The company noted that “the US FAA, for its part, issues recommendations, which are carefully reviewed by all industry players.”
The DGAC indicated that it had no comment to make.