An Air Algerie airliner with 116 people on board disappeared 50 minutes into a Thursday morning flight from Burkina Faso to Algeria.

Swiftair, the Spanish operator of the Boeing MD-83 aircraft, said Flight AH5017 took off from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 1.17am and was due to land in Algiers at 5.10am.

There were 110 passengers, two pilots and four cabin crew on board. News of the disappearance was only made public several hours after air traffic controllers lost contact with the aeroplane.

“At this time the emergency personnel and company employees are working to find out what has happened, and as more information becomes available about what happened, new bulletins will be published,” Swiftair said in a statement.

Algeria’s official news agency confirmed the disappearance and said Air Algerie had “launched its emergency plan”.

Air Algerie’s last major accident was in March 2003, when a Boeing 737 crashed during a domestic flight from Tamanrasset to Ghardaia, killing all but one of the 103 people on board, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network.

Civilian aviation safety has been in the spotlight following the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine last week. US and EU regulators on Tuesday warned against flying to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport because of the Gaza conflict, while on Wednesday a crash involving a Taiwanese airliner left 48 people dead.

Swiftair, established in 1986 and based in Madrid, began flying passenger charter flights in 2002, according to its website. It has a fleet of more than 30 aircraft, including two MD-83s, and employs more than 400 people.

It has an aviation company in Greece and a handling company in Morocco.

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