UK-bound flights from Africa blocked by sudden airspace closure

Niger airspace closure
By Linsey McNeill
Home » UK-bound flights from Africa blocked by sudden airspace closure

Flights heading to the UK from Africa were forced to turn back on Sunday after the airspace over Niger was suddenly closed following a military coup.

Other flights between the UK and southern Africa are now being re-routed or diverted around the closure, causing longer journeys.

A British Airways flight from South Africa to London Heathrow was forced to return to Johannesburg when the airspace over Niger was closed by the ruling junta after the Airbus A380 was already airborne late on Sunday evening.

Another BA flight from Kenya to Heathrow was also forced to turn back to Nairobi after three hours in the air.

A third BA flight, from Cape Town, and a Virgin Atlantic flight from Johannesburg were diverted to Lagos to take on more fuel in order to fly around the closed airspace.

The Niger airspace will remain closed to commercial flights at least until midnight tonight, but this could be extended.

Since the airspace over Sudan and Libya is already closed to commercial flights, the closure of Niger airspace means airlines flying between Europe and southern Africa must skirt around a considerable part of the African continent, potentially adding about 1,000kms to their journeys.

However, both a BA and Virgin overnight flights from Johannesburg landed at Heathrow on time this morning. A BA overnight flight from Cape Town has been delayed around four hours, but BA said this was unrelated to the Niger airspace closure. A spokesperson said BA was continuing to operate as planned, with some flights taking ‘slightly longer’.

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