By Ashraf Abdul Wahab and Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 24 February 2014:
All Libyan Airlines flights to and from Europe have been suspended by . . .[restrict]the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority (LYCAA) after a flight to London lost communications with Air Traffic Control.
The aircraft was operated by private Tunisian company Nouvelair, which currently services Libyan Airlines’ European routes. Both Libyan Airlines and fellow state-owned airline Afriqiyah Airways can only service their European routes with wet-leased aircraft and flight-deck crew, whilst still under a self-imposed ban on flying their own planes in EU airspace.
“We have suspended Nouvelair flights after an incident involving a loss of communications,” Director General of Libya’s Civil Aviation Authority (LYCAA) Captain Nasereddin Shaebelain told the Libya Herald. “It seems the plane entered French airspace without informing Air Traffic Control and then remained out of communication almost until it entered UK airspace.”
The restriction affects Libyan Airline routes to London and Manchester in the UK as well as flights to Malta and Madrid.
Shaebelain said the LYCAA had opened an investigation to establish exactly what had happened but he was unable to say how long this could take. The suspension would not be lifted, he said, until investigations had been completed.
“We are looking at this from a safety point of view because we have to ensure that people can enjoy safe flights,” Shaebelain said.
The restriction, he added, was on the private Tunisian company Nouvelair rather than Libyan Airlines.
Captain Hussein Fitouri, from the Benghazi Pilot’s Union, said the suspension was a “disaster” for the airline. The move would adversely affect the company’s financial obligations, he said, because it had borrowed money from Libyan banks to pay for the lease of the aircraft.
Afriqiyah Airways said on its official London Gatwick twitter account that today it helped Libyan Airlines by transporting passengers whose flight had been cancelled. A later ‘tweet’ said that it would be carrying Libyan Airlines passengers tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. [/restrict]