By Tom Westcott and Nigel Ash.
Tripoli, 13 April 2013:
Scheduled Libyan Airlines flights are unaffected by the current strike being staged by some of its Benghazi-based pilots, an airline source has told the Libya Herald.
“Flights from Tripoli and Benghazi are not being affected by this strike,” the source said. “There are only around 8-12 people striking.”
However, Captain Hussein Fitouri, from the Benghazi Pilot’s Union, told the Libya Herald today, Saturday, that there are, in fact, 30 pilots on strike, all of whom are based in Benghazi. He added that two Airbus 320s, which service routes to Tripoli, Egypt, Tunisia and Istanbul, are currently stranded at Benghazi Airport.
“I am sure Libyan Airlines are losing a lot of money,” Fitouri said, “but they are saying that it is not affecting them.”
The airline source explained that some employees were disgruntled that their retraining had been moved to Germany, where standards are much stricter. Libyan Airlines pilots, most of whom previously qualified in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, are being retrained by Lufthansa in an effort to get the current ban lifted on the airline flying in EU airspace.
Aircraft and staff from Libyan Airlines and fellow state airline Afriqiyah Airways are currently banned from flying in EU skies and are having to wet-lease aircraft to service their European routes.
“The main reason for going with Lufthansa was to raise the standard and fulfil our commitment with Europe in order to get the ban lifted,” the source said.
“More than 95 percent of the company are in favour of training with Lufthansa because they have had enough of going to places like Tunisia, Egypt or even Jordan,” he said. Some pilots, however, are apparently struggling to pass the training and, with several failures under their belts, have just two more chances to succeed. “The people leading the strike are mainly ones who have failed their training,” he alleged.
Fitouri, however, insisted that the strike is because Benghazi pilots want Libyan Airlines to be relocated to Benghazi, where it was established in 1964. “Everything is being run from Tripoli,” he said, “but the airline should have management departments in Tripoli, Benghazi and Sebha.”
Concerns about management are also fuelling the strike. “We want new people,” Fitouri said, “one of the demands is that the people who are running the airline should be relieved of their duties.”
However, the airline source said that this demand stems only from a small group of pilots who have personal reasons for acting against the management.
Fitouri said he is expecting to meet with GNC President Mohamed Magarief and Minister of Transport Abdel-Qader Ahmed on Wednesday, to discuss the strikers’ demands. [/restrict]