By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 26 December 2014:
At least one Libyan airline is set to defy an order from the government in . . .[restrict]Beida that no carriers, including those from Libya, can use Misrata and Tripoli’s Mitiga airports, which provide the sole international air links within territory controlled by Libya Dawn.
The head of transport authority Khaled Musa has told the Libya Herald that any Libyan airline that continues to fly out of these two airfields will have its operating licence revoked. He did not give a date for when the ban will come into force. Nor did he stipulate the consequences that would overtake Turkish Airlines, which is the sole international carrier currently flying into Misrata, with a twice daily service and on-demand charter flights.
Tonight Abubaker Elfortia, boss of Afriqiyah Airways told this newspaper: “For us the people in Beida do not exist. They are not legitimate. They have sent military aircraft to strike at us. The Supreme Court made clear that they are not legitimate. We do not recognise them and what they say. We will continue to fly.”
The Ministry’s ruling means that Afriqiyah Airways, Libyan Airlines, Ghadames Air Transport and Buraq Air, along with Global Aviation, Petro Air and the new carrier Libyan Wings will all be grounded if they disobey. This drastic action bypasses the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority, which has thus far failed to comply with an instruction from the Abdullah Al-Thinni government to relocate from Tripoli to Beida.
Elfortia said that only the LCAA had the power to introduce this level of ban. When asked if that body was not responsible to the government, he repeated that the government in Beida had no legal standing.
If Afriqiyah or any other carriers defy the ruling and lose their licences to operate, it will pose an issue for countries currently serviced by Libyan airlines. Elfortia said that Afriqiyah now has regular services to Istanbul, Amman, Casablanca, Tunis, Khartoum and Niamey. Turkey, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan and Niger all still recognise the sole legitimacy of the Thinni government and the House of Representatives.
Therefore their civil aviation authorities might be forced to exclude Libyan carriers. The ban also highlights another issue which is that east-bound flights by Libyan carriers from Mitiga and Misrata have been obliged to land at either Labraq or Tobruk for security inspections.
Elfortia, who insists his only concern is to provide a good service to passengers from all part of Libya complained that the inspections, introduced last month, have proved onerous.
“These checks can take up to three hours, as passengers and bag are screened. It just makes trouble. It is exhausting for our customers and it is exhausting for the crew. It was clear that we could not continue this way so we have worked on another solution”.
That solution involves wet-leasing two aeroplanes from the Georgian aviation firm Aerovista, which has offices in Dubai. The first of the Aerovista A320 aircraft leave for Istanbul tomorrow from Misrata. A second A320 will do the same trip on Sunday from Mitiga. Neither, said Elfortia, would be stopping to be inspected at Labraq or Tobruk.
“Why should they? ” he asked, “ They are not Libyan aircraft. Therefore the inspection rule does not apply to them”.
When Aerovista announced its deal with Afriqiyah earlier this week, the company speculated that at some point, its aircraft could be used to resume Afriqiyah’s old routes into EU airspace, from which Libyan carriers have been banned under a voluntary deal since March 2012.
Afriqiyah had sidestepped this ban by re-registering two of its Airbuses in Ireland and outsourcing their operation to Dublin-based Air Contractors. With these planes it serviced London Gatwick, Paris, Dusseldorf and Rome. This month the EU made the ban formal and mandatory. It prevents any flight originating in Libya from entering EU airspace because of what is considered serious embarkation security flaws at all Libyan airports. Thus even a wet-lease contract would not permit a Libyan airline to fly into Europe.
Elfortia said this evening that it was because of this that staff have been fired at the Afriqiyah’s London Gatwick European hub. “ We made some people redundant. We were over-staffed and we have reduced the numbers”. He also confirmed that the airline has not renewed its agreements with service companies at Paris, Rome and Dusseldorf.
A member of staff at Gatwick said that the redundancy notices had been received the day before Christmas Eve: “We all suspected something like this was going to happen” he said, “So it was not a great surprise. But I have to say the timing was a bit of a shock ”. [/restrict]