Libya’s Afriqiyah Airways has been grounded since the 17th of March 2011, when a United Nations mandated No Fly Zone went into effect at the start of the nation’s civil war. Now after a year on the ground, the airline remains flightless while its counterpart, Libyan Arab Airlines, has returned to flying.
Despite the European Union suspending the airline’s rights to enter its airspace the airline has its sights on growing its fleet and its planned merger with Libyan Arab Airlines, announcing that it ordered three new Airbus A330-300s on the 23rd of April, and is planning to reinstate its service toLondon’s Gatwick Airport this May.
The airline’s three new Airbus A330-300s, expected to begin entering the fleet in the first half of 2013, will join its current A330-202s, both of which are in storage, one at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport since March 2011. The airline has not indicated why it selected the A330-300 with a higher passenger capacity over the currently operated A330-200 with a lower passenger capacity and longer range.
Afriqiyah Airways‘ intention to return to London Gatwick in a few weeks may be pushing the boundaries of political expedience, as well as operational hurdles must be overcome to return to service, much less restore service to London with aircraft that have been in storage for more than a year.
Presently Afriqiyah Airways’ active fleet, capable of being operational in a fairly short span of time includes three Airbus A319-111 and six Airbus A320-214 aircraft. The airline also operated an Airbus A340-213 (5A-ONE), in its livery, for deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi with VIP interior, this aircraft is expected to be sold off or scrapped.
Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Arab Airlines share a modern hub at Tripoli International Airport, posses a young modern fleet and merged have the potential to be a highly competitive airline between Europe, Africa and the Middle East … however before any of this comes to fruition the airlines must both return to full operational status, merge and overcome European Union political barriers.