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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 17:52 GMT
Air Afrique finally goes bust
Air Afrique check-in desk
The airline handed back its last plane in January
The debt-ridden Air Afrique is officially to go bankrupt after years of crisis.

Air France plane
A deal with Air France faces obstacles

The 11 states that own the pan-African airline's decided unanimously at an extraordinary board meeting to file for bankruptcy on Thursday.

The move follows an agreement last year with French flag carrier Air France on a bail-out package that would lead to the creation of a new airline called Nouvelle Air Afrique.

Air Afrique returned its sole remaining aircraft to the leasing company in mid-January before the aircraft was seized for the payment of arrears.

Correspondents say the proposed changes come after the failure of a restructuring plan brokered by the World Bank.

Unanimous decision

According to the AFP news agency, the airline's directors said in a statement that the board had "unanimously decided to file for bankruptcy" after examining the "financial situation."

The statement said a committee would be set up to evaluate salary arrears and look into the legal rights of the 4,200 workers to "facilitate an appropriate" package.

While many airlines have suffered falls in passenger revenue since the 11 September attacks in the United States, African leaders and company employees blame mismanagement for Air Afrique's chronic problems.

Air Afrique was created on the premise that many small African countries cannot afford their own national airline.

But management issues - often linked to the problem of being owned by 11 states - have crippled the airline.

New airline

Chad's Transport Minister Mahamat Saleh Ahamat, who is also the head of the Air Afrique board, said negotiations aimed at creating a new Air Afrique "are currently going on."

"We wish the process would be accelerated," he told AFP.

The privatisation of Air Afrique has been on the drawing board for several years, but no solutions have cropped for dealing with the company's crippling debt of $464m.

Air France has offered to buy a big stake, but according to Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, the French carrier has insisted that the new company has a monopoly on certain routes.

The African governments have said they do not accept this condition and have threatened to find a new partner in the event Air France should pose what they term excessive demands.

But their chances of finding another carrier to bail them out seem remote.

And there are other problems to resolve before the new Air Afrique can emerge, including what to do with the company's debts and its staff.

See also:

11 Jan 02 | Business
Hopes rise for new Air Afrique
23 Dec 01 | Business
US attacks push airlines to the edge
15 Oct 01 | Business
Air Afrique loses half its fleet
15 Aug 01 | Business
Air Afrique wound up
26 Nov 01 | Africa
A striking end for Air Afrique
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