Fitting to end this year's Air Afrique Week with one of the most magnificent items of the airline's heritage that this blog has been able to feature: a 1987 route map, found recently on the wall of a travel agency in Dakar, Senegal.
The Map is based on a popular wall map that was widely distributed in the 1980s, and although strikingly colorful it is not particularly faithful to terrain or topography. It is generally a poor decision to begin a route map from a conventional map, as generally the original cartographer has already displayed a surfeit of information which is extraneous to displaying the airline's route system.
While that is especially true in this case, as a Mercator Projection version of this map is thoroughly critiqued on this cartography blog, in this case the trouble is greatly mitigated by the use of white route lines against the dark, natural palette of the oceans and continents.
Being itself a wall-sized poster, this map is also large enough to visually convey the complex network of Air Afrique to the observer by its scale. Beyond the dense interlacing of its regional network (which will be more thoroughly examined in a separate, subsequent post) what is immediately evident are the long haul connections to other continents.
Chief among these are the many Trans-Saharan routes to France, especially the fountain shower emanating out of Paris: Bordeaux, Abidjan, Lome, Ouagadougou, Marseille, Lyon, Ouagadougou, Rome, N'Djamena, and Bangui.
The interior connections to southernly French cities was surely a stop-over operation: Bamako is connected only to Lyon and Marseille, for instance. Likewise, follow the many lines to see how Niamey, was linked to all three secondary French cities, including, apparently, via Agadez (gateway to vast Areva uranium mine that fuels most of France's public power utility) but not directly to Paris non-stop. Interestingly, one of the other cities not directly connected to Paris is one of the airline's main hubs: Dakar, which seems to be linked only via Nouakchott. or one of several other European cities.
These latter elements—Dakar to Bordeaux, Geneva, Rome, and Marseille— are separated out from the crowd by swinging in a dramatic, centripetal fashion westward, well over the North Atlantic. The only route to the west of this is reverse-S curve Dakar—New York service. As has been stated many times before during our Air Afrique weeks, as much prestige as the multiple routes to the metropole afforded, it was this lone transatlantic operation that was the flagship pride of the consortium.
It is easy in this rendering to overlook the other bell of Air Afrique's dual-hub network: Abidjan, whose ribboning loops link it across the region and again to Lyon, Marseille, Geneva, Bordeaux and again to Paris itself. The last intercontinental element is eastward endeavor from Chad to Jeddah, a nod to the pilgrimage traffic of so many Sahelians.
The following post will focus on the regional route network.