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Afriqiyah Airways, based at Tripoli International Airport, is one of two state-owned national airlines of Libya, the other being Libyan Airlines. The carrier operates services to destinations in North and Central Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
To resolve the anomaly of two national airlines, the Libyan Government has placed both Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways under a single state-owned holding company, Libyan Afriqiyah Aviation Holding Company. There have been numerous pronouncements about merging the two to rationalise operations, but plans are constantly delayed.
Both suffered extensive damage to their fleets and facilities during the uprising, but resumed operations in late 2011.
Location of Afriqiyah Airways main hub (Tripoli International Airport)
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Even before the NATO air strikes, the United Nations sanctions and the European Union ban, Libya’s aviation industry had little hope. The country, ruled by Muammar Gaddafi under an iron fist for the last 40 years, placed little focus on its airlines and airports, while countries in the nearby Middle East flourished and started to develop some of the largest hubs in the world. The Middle East/North African region has become increasingly important but it seems Libya was left behind, and when major unrest broke out in Feb-2011, the industry’s problems widened significantly. Now Libya has been “liberalised” and Gaddafi killed, it must begin the slow process of rebuilding an industry whose foundations were not strong to begin with. International airlines have resumed services, investment firms are showing interest in relaunching airport renovation projects, the country’s two national carriers have relaunched operations and are set to resume talks on their merger, and tourism operators are becoming optimistic about future bookings.
Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the unrest in Libya is part of the greater Arab Spring, which has seen the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya overthrown. Aviation in these countries during the unrest was unstable, however, Tunisair and EgyptAir have successfully restored operations to full capacity. In Feb-2011, Cairo International Airport recorded 530,000 passengers – a 54% drop from Feb-2010. The airport is now operating at near-2010 capacity, and in Jul-2011 and Sep-2011, passenger traffic surpassed 2009 levels. Libya’s Monastir Habib Bourguiba International Airport and Enfidha Zine El Abidine Ben Ali Airport, both operated by TAV Holdings, have been recording consistent traffic decreases of between 30% and 50% each month.
Air France-KLM Group is reportedly studying the possibility of resuming services between Paris and Tripoli, almost 22 years after the Lockerbie bombing (Pan Am 103) and 21 years after the subsequent downing of a French UTA Airlines flight in Niger, which was blamed on the Libyan Secret Service. No indication on the timing of the launch of Air France services has been disclosed. It has been reported that the carrier would operate three or four times weekly on the route with A320 equipment. Air France has been slow among European airlines in resuming flights to Tripoli, after an embargo against Libya under its leader Moamer Kadhafi was lifted in 2003. Partner KLM does operate six flights weekly from Amsterdam though. The French pilots union, SNPL, which has blocked previous plans to resume the route, said it was not opposed in principle but the move would depend on working conditions and safety.
African airline fleet growth peaking in 2010; Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines & Nigerian Eagle lead way
African airlines are expected to take delivery of 73 new aircraft in 2010 – making it a peak year for deliveries to the region, after 42 deliveries last year, 26 in 2008 and 39 in 2007. Approximately 66 aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2011, according to Ascend fleet data. The 74% year-on-year increase in deliveries in 2010 reflects the growing optimism in the African continent amid a resources-led economic revival, and the recent success of some of the region’s rising star airlines. Egyptair and Ethiopian Airlines will take delivery of the greatest number of aircraft (ten each) in 2010, to lead the regional tally.
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