By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 6 June 2013:
After eleven months of leasing an aircraft from Air Moldova to service its European routes, Afriqiyah . . .[restrict]flights to London are now being operated by an aircraft wet-leased from Spanish airline Swiftair.
Since Afriqiyah relaunched its flights to London on 3 July 2012, the thrice-weekly service has been operated by Air Moldova’s Airbus A320 ER-AXP. Afriqiyah and fellow state airline Libyan Airlines are currently banned from flying their own aircraft in EU airspace and are wet-leasing aircraft and crew to operate their European flights.
Head of Afriqiyah’s UK operations Alan Mates said that it was a sad day for the airline when the final Air Moldova flight left Gatwick. “We have got to know all the crews and they know Gatwick as an efficient station,” said Mates.
“We have had the Air Moldova aircraft for eleven months, and now it needs to go for a service,” he told the Libya Herald. The service means the Airbus will be out of action for a few weeks, which has forced Afriqiyah to find a new aircraft to keep flights running during the busy summer season.
The airline has signed a two-month contract with Swiftair, hoping that, by the end of this period, the EU flight ban might have been lifted, allowing Afriqiyah to fly its own aircraft into European airspace.
The Swiftair MD-83 aircraft, which will fly between Tripoli and London on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday, seats 165 and features five abreast seating, unlike the six abreast configuration of the Airbus 320.
“This ban on Libyan-registered aircraft has gone on for much longer than we anticipated,” said Mates, “we are exploring all avenues to see our own aircraft in our distinctive colours back in the skies of Europe and hopefully we will be able to do this quite soon.”
The next meeting of the EU Safety Council will be held on 25 June in Brussels. [/restrict]