Gambia Bird has deferred the third phase of its west African network expansion until 1 March, but will not cancel planned flights to Bamako, Mali in light of the deepening security crisis in the country.
"We are not scared of the political situation in Mali," chief commercial officer Karsten Balke tells Flightglobal. "We have been there and felt how safe it is [in the capital]. Other airlines are flying there as well, so there is no reason at all to stop our plans."
The flag carrier's third phase of expansion had envisaged four new destinations being added on 10 January - comprising Bamako, Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, and Douala in Cameroon.
The first three routes have now been delayed until 1 March for unspecified "commercial reasons", Balke confirms, though he says the airline will take advantage of the delay by increasing marketing activities.
Douala has meanwhile been postponed indefinitely as the route was intended to be a connecting service via Lagos, Nigeria - a destination for which Gambia Bird has yet to secure access, in spite of the bilateral rights enshrined in the Banjul Accord.
"Douala is linked with Lagos, so we will not do that until we have the traffic rights for Lagos," the CCO says, adding that the matter is being negotiated "government to government".
Gambia Bird, which launched services from capital city Banjul in October, operates a fleet of two Airbus A319s on regional routes to Conakry in Guinea, Monrovia in Liberia, Freetown in Sierra Leone, Accra in Ghana, and Dakar in Senegal.
The airline also operates intercontinental services to London Gatwick airport and Barcelona, with plans to launch a third European destination in Scandinavia this summer.
Asked about future routes of interest in west Africa, Balke says Cotonou in Benin, Lome in Togo, and Equatorial Guinea are all being considered.
"First we have to enter a process of consolidation, increase our seat load factors, and focus on marketing and distribution," he insists. "The west African sub-region must be developed, and when we think about further destinations we will investigate demand carefully."