Libyan airline plans to double fleet with Airbus jetliners

The North African airline Libyan Wings, a full-service carrier launched last year, says it will add more passenger jets to its fleet as it looks to expand.

Visitors gather around Airbus A320 and A380 aircraft scale models. Libyan Wings aims to buy aircraft from the A320 family. Noah Seelam / AFP
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The Libyan full-service carrier Libyan Wings plans to double its fleet in the first-half of 2017 by leasing two Airbus A321 jets so it can add more flights to its network, says the chief executive Edgardo Badiali.

The Tripoli-based airline expects to finalise the leases by early 2017 so the aircraft can enter operations by the end of the first and second quarter, respectively, Mr Badiali said on the sidelines of an industry conference in Dubai.

He did not name the lessors but said the airline would opt for A320 or A319 jets if it could not finalise deals for the larger A321s. Libyan Wings at present operates two Airbus A319 jets leased from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

Libyan Wings flies to Tunisian cities Tunis and Sfax and to Istanbul in Turkey, predominantly carrying Libyan expatriates and Libyan business people, and expects to carry around 250,000 passengers in the 12 months to January 31, 2017, Mr Badiali said.

The airline is in talks to add frequencies on existing routes and to launch flights to Casablanca in Morocco and Alexandria in Egypt, he added.

The new planes would also be used for charter Haj and Umrah pilgrimage flights to Saudi Arabia, Mr Badiali said.

The airline had signed a memorandum of understanding for three Airbus A350-900s and four A320neos valued at US$1.3 billion at list prices at the 2013 Dubai Airshow. Mr Badiali said the agreement was still valid, but did not provide a timeline for the deliveries.

The airline, like all Libyan carriers, is banned from flying to Europe as violent conflicts since the uprising that overthrew Gaddafi in 2011 prompted the European Commission to blacklist the country’s Civil Aviation Authority in 2014.

Libyan Wings, owned by private Libyan investors, launched flights in October 2015, about a year after it initially planned. It competes against the tate carriers Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines and the privately-owned Buraq Air.

It is based at Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport, a former military base that is approximately 5 kilometres from the city. The main commercial airport, Tripoli International, was destroyed in inter-militia fighting in 2014.

Libyan Wings and Buraq have a reputation for being reliable despite operating in a chaotic environment. Flights to and from Mitiga are sometimes diverted or cancelled because of fighting and or power struggles in Tripoli. The airport itself has been caught up in clashes and is often chaotic and overcrowded.

* Reuters

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