From the State Department's website: "The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Mali’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards."
I'm not a nervous flyer, but I did pause to take a deep breath before climbing the air stairs to the MD-87, one of Air Mali's four operating aircraft. Our flight from Mopti to Dakar is a private group charter, arranged by a US-based tour company. I gave the old bird a superstitious love pat and stepped through the boarding door, hoping for the best. And by best (as I'm fairly low maintenance) I mean that I'm happy if the seats actually have seat belts.
We got off the ground without a hitch, and the flight attendants began making the rounds with bottles of wine and plastic cups. Kind of like a picnic in the sky. In Africa. My seat mate and I were both elated with the heavy (wine to the brim) pour, especially considering her older-than-it-looked seat did surreptitiously creep into full recline during takeoff. Noticing most of the other passengers passing on the vino, I asked the F/As if they would leave us a bottle at the seat. I think they thought I was joking.
I wasn't even expecting a meal service, so imagine my surprise when the trays began to make the rounds. Lunch included a warm roll, a chicken platter and an almond tart.
The grilled chicken turned out to be quite good, considering I initially took one bite "for the sake of the blog". I was unsure about the red condiment to the right which may or may not have been beet-marinated onions? At least I believe they were onions. I heaped them onto the chicken for additional flavor. Although unidentifiable, the onions were not the strangest part of Air Mali's meal.
Check out the potato and carrot mix on the left. Look closely. Some of the potatoes aren't actually potatoes, but swiss-like cheese cubes. I'm nothing if not a lover of all things cheese, so the cubes masquerading as tubers got major tray table bonus points.
For dessert, a moist almond tart, served in the cutest little Air Mali dish. In retrospect, I wish I'd allowed that dish to get its "souvenir on" by falling off the tray and into my carry-on bag. I mean, when's the next time I'm going to find myself flying Air Mali.