By Sami Zaptia.
London, 29 June 2016:
Militias at Mitiga airport continue to block the departure of a brand new Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A 330-300 parked at the airport since 2014, highly placed Afriquiya sources told Libya Herald. Afriqiyah had agreed a rental contract with Turkish Airlines for the aircraft.
Having prevented the plane from departing earlier in the year in fulfilment of the Turkish airlines rental contract, airport militias at Mitiga airport (not Kara’s Special Deterrence Force), yesterday prevented the aircraft from departing for essential maintenance. The aircraft has never been flown but is beginning to rust due to being parked without maintenance near the sea at Mitiga since 2014, the Afriqiyah source said.
Libya Herald has been sent four documents by the Afriqiyah source approving the actions taken by the airliner.
The Salvation Government had attempted to dismiss the chairman of Afriqiyah but failed. It had frozen the implementation of the contract in reaction to public and media suspicions of the transparency of the rental contract between Afriqiyah and Turkish airlines. It had ordered its Transport Ministry to carry out an investigation. It returned a report on 7 April approving the rental contract.
On 4th April the Attorney General’s Office, referring to the Salvation Government’s failure to legally remove the airliner’s chairman, also instructed Mitiga airport militias to allow the aircraft to depart.
However, despite its own Transport Ministry recommendations, the Salvation Government did not release the aircraft. The Administrative Control Authority had also issued an instruction dated 20th April this year to the Faiez Serraj and his Presidency Council/Government of National Accord (PC/GNA) to take action to release the blocked airliner. The PC/GNA for its part issued instructions dated 2nd June to militias at Mitiga to release the craft.
However, the Afriqiyah source told Libya Herald that militias at Mitiga used airplane steps to physically block the aircraft in order to prevent its departure. The source was not clear who’s interest this action represents. He admitted Afriqiyah had internal as well as external enemies. Internal enemies include its own staff that have been made unemployed by the airliner.
He speculated that there is speculation on the amount of commissions charged for the rental deal by various parties. However, he pointed out that the commissions were approved as acceptable by the Salvation Government’s own Transport Ministry report.
There is also suspicion that some Libyan Airlines actors maybe at play in the background with a zero-sum tug-of-war battle between the two airliners. While Afriquiya has found solutions outside the box to carry on operating during difficult times, including paying its staff salaries, Libyan airlines’ staff have been unpaid for months. It must be added that there is no evidence of any Libyan Airlines interference.
Afriqiyah says that its case for renting the two planes is based on the current commercial and political reality in Libya. In fear of the deteriorating Libyan circumstances the airliner sought to cover its costs both locally in Libyan dinars and abroad in hard currency. The two A330-300 planes are deemed too large to be efficiently exploited in a commercial manner in Libya. It was thought that rental would be the best option. This would earn hard currency to cover all costs.
With regards to the rental offer by Turkish airlines, the source said that it was the best offer, as was confirmed by the report. The source told Libya Herald that offers from the USA and South African were also considered. At the time of the offer Libya still had good relations with Turkey and Afriqiyah auditors and monitors would not need a visa to Turkey facilitating access to the rented aircraft.
‘‘It is not commercially logic to use the plane’’, he explained. He pointed out that Libyan Airlines has 4 planes sitting earning nothing because it does not pay to use them. ‘’It costs more to operate them than to park them’’, he explained
The source highlighted the difficulty of obtaining official foreign exchange transfers to pay for overseas hard currency costs and debts for Afriqiyah. ‘’The rent of one Afriqiyah plane to Turkish Airlines paid for the maintenance of 2 planes’ maintenance and all of the airliner’s staff wages’’. Referring to the current Libyan dinar cash shortage crisis in Libya, he added that ‘’we pay our revenues into local banks helping mitigate the cash crisis’’.
Afriqiyah has now lost the opportunity to rent the second craft to Turkish airlines as it had missed the deadline for peak summer traffic. However, the never-used craft has had no routine maintenance since it was parked in Mitiga and the company is worried about long term damage to the craft caused by rust. ‘’Its maintenance will cost a lot in hard currency’’, the source said.
The source was not clear exactly who could be behind the airport militias still blocking the plane. He was surprised how ineffective Faiez Serraj and his PC/GNA are and their lack of control at Mitiga airport. He was hoping by publicizing the case of the parked rusting craft, pressure might be put on the powers behind the Mitiga militias to release the plane.