Flights from sub-Saharan Africa to European hubs were re-routed overnight after military leaders behind the coup in Niger unexpectedly closed the country’s airspace.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were among the airlines affected by closure, which also forced Air France and Lufthansa to divert or later their filed flight path.

The NOTAM stated: “The Niger Republic airspace from Ground to Unlimited, including all ATS routes, is closed for all flights.”

The ruling junta cited fears of a military intervention by neighbouring countries as justification for the airspace closure. It is not clear how long the airspace will remained closed for.

Niger airspace is used by European, Middle Eastern and African airlines and will further complicate the process of over-flying sub-Saharan Africa since carriers already avoid Libya and Sudan.

Aircraft re-routed

Data provided by FlightRadar24 showed several aircraft diverting late on Sunday, including a British Airways Airbus A380 which returned to Johannesburg.

On Monday morning, FlightRadar24 showed flights from Abuja and Lagos in Nigeria to London Heathrow were continuing to avoid the airspace, flying west before routing north over Mali.

Tensions have been mounting in Niger since soldiers ousted the elected president last month. The junta now in charge have alleged that neighbouring central African countries are preparing to invade.

Aviation analyst Jason Rabinowitz wrote on social media: “The overachievers, the fortunate, the determined, the unlucky. Many different stories tonight as Niger’s airspace suddenly closed.

“Some flights made big detours to continue the route. Others planned to stop for fuel but didn’t it. Some did. Several spent 10 hours to go nowhere.”

Image: Screenshot from FlightRadar24
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