By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 23 December 2014:
Afriqiyah Airways has signed a deal with a Georgian company in what is believed to be . . .[restrict]a fresh attempt to restart its European services, using non-Libyan-registered aircraft.
Dubai-based aircraft leasing and management company Aerovista has announced that it is providing two Airbus 320-200 aircraft to the Libyan carrier. Aerovista said that the aircraft could be used for European destinations but for the present would be deployed on Afriqiyah’s Istanbul and Amman routes.
The two Airbuses , along with crews and operations are being supplied by Aerovista’s Georgian subsidiary. Afriqiyah has been flying from Misrata to Istanbul with its own aircraft. However all Libyan-registered planes are now banned from European airspace, on security as well as safety grounds.
Afriqiyah’s own Airbuses have to cut a route between Cypriot and Cretan (Greek) airspace, to avoid falling foul of the EU ban. This dogleg, which is also used by other Libyan carriers on the Turkey route, involves flying along the North African coast before turning north near Alexandria.
It is not clear why Afriqiyah has done this wet-leasing deal. It is a moot point if the extra fuel saved by being able to overfly EU airspace in a Georgian-registered aeroplane outweighs the extra cost of wet-leasing two aircraft.
The voluntary ban by the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority on Libyan registered planes entering EU airspace came about because of unsatisfactory record-keeping by the Libyan authorities,
Afriqiyah first side-stepped the block by wet leasing aeroplanes from Moldova, then Spain and later Tunisia. However, at the time the airline’s boss Abubaker Elfortia told the Libya Herald that this was a highly expensive option. The later ingenious workaround was to re-register three of its new Airbuses in EU-member Ireland, with the operational management outsourced through a joint venture to an Irish company, Air Contractors.
Before fighting broke out this summer, only two of these “Irish” aircraft actually entered service with Afriqiya flying the London Gatwick, Paris, Dusseldorf and Rome routes from the old Tripoli International airport. There have since been contractual and insurance difficulties. Both the aircraft are believed to be parked up at Luqa Airport in Malta.
The return of Afriqiyah to European skies may not be soon. Three weeks ago staff at all four European stations were being warned that their jobs were on the line, because they had no flights to service.
It was not possible to obtain a detailed comment from Afriqiyah management this evening.