By Michel Cousins
Tunis, 11 October 2016:
Afriqiyah Airways has embarked on major programme of expansion aimed at expanding its income base both inside and outside Libya. The programme includes the creation of two additional airlines and the acquisition of further aircraft for the group.
Afriqiyah Express is being set up as a low-cost domestic carrier serving Libyan airports.
“We’re in the final stages of acquiring five ARJ planes,” an Afriqiyah official told the Libyan Herald. The Chinese-made planes, to be delivered shortly, were being bought from another airline and would service a number of routes within the country, he said.
Ticketing on these, he added, would be “as cheap as possible”.
Outside Libya, the official said, the plan is to create an airline – Pan-Afriqiyah – operating between Europe and Africa – but not Libya for the time being because of the EU ban on Libyan operators.
Using two of its airbuses which are registered in the EU and currently leased and operating with Libyan crews in north eastern Europe, the aim is to develop Afriqiyah’s original idea of using Tripoli as a north-south hub. But because of the political crisis and the destruction of Tripoli International Airport two years ago, this is not possible so the aim now, according to the official, is to use a nearby airport as the interim the hub.
“We going to change the hub to Malta,” he said.
The plan would also involve cooperation with Air Malta, pooling flights with it from the rest of Europe to the island, and from there on Pan Afiqiyah to Africa.
Other planned developments include the creation on an aircraft maintenance company, also likely to be headquarted in Malta. The aim, however, is to create a number of maintenance centres in other locations around the world.
The expansion programme is already well under way.
Last Friday, as part of its foreign expansion programme, Afriqiyah acquired 20 percent of the Aviation Training Center of Tunisia (ATCT).
It also recently bought an Airbus 300-600 cargo plane for its cargo operations, making it the first Libyan airline to own it own cargo aircraft. Additionally, It is in the process of acquiring an Beechcraft Super King Air twin-prop aircraft which will be used for VIP hire or, when necessary, transformed into an air ambulance.
Another developments has been the acquisition and opening of an accommodation hotel for staff in Tripoli’s Hadba district, not far from the Rixos hotel.
Given the problems in Libya and the difficulties of exchanging dinars for dollars or euros, the developments have been forced in Afriqiyah, the official said.
“We have to look at alternative opportunities,” he explained.
Afriqiyah is currently operating six Airbus A20s. It has two long-haul A330s, ordered before the revolution but financially unviable in the present situation. One has been leased out and the other at Mitiga but currently not used.