Libyan government seeks to end air travel isolation
TUNIS - The internationally backed Libyan Government of National Accord is seeking to break the country’s air travel isolation through cooperation with Tunisia.
Afriqiyah Airways, one of Libya’s two state-owned airlines, has entered into a partnership with the Aviation Training Centre in Tunisia by acquiring 20% of the centre’s capital.
Libyan Minister of Transportation Miled Maatoug said the step would provide Libya with significant savings in money and time. Libya formerly trained its pilots in Europe.
Maatoug encouraged other Libyan companies, including Libyan Airlines, the other state-owned carrier, to join the partnership with the centre to make it a major training facility in North Africa and a training destination for African pilots and flight personnel.
Afriqiyah Airways President Mohamed al-Fortiya said the partnership would be an asset for the company as it would contribute to improving the performance of Libyan pilots.
Libyan air travel connections to the rest of the world have been hampered by instability and violence since the 2011 overthrow of despot Muammar Qaddafi. Airlines closed their offices in Tripoli following what became known as the “airport battle” of 2014.
Tripoli International Airport was heavily damaged as Islamist militias of the Dawn of Libya Coalition and rival Zlitan forces fought for control of the installation. Battles broke out around Benghazi’s Benina International Airport, the second largest in Libya, before forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar gained control of the facility.
Libyan planes resumed flights to Tunis last May, one month after the Presidency Council, which performs the functions of a head of state for the Government of National Accord, was established in Tripoli.
Tunisian authorities had closed the airport to flights from Libya following terrorist incidents in Tunisia in 2015. Hundreds of Tunisian jihadists are said to be based in Libya. The Tunisian Transportation Ministry said then that the only Tunisian airport open to flights from Libya would be Sfax International Airport, 270km south of Tunis.
Maatoug said that, starting in November, Tunisian airline Tunisair would resume flights to and from Tripoli.
Tunisian Transportation Minister Anis Ghedira said Tunisian authorities would send a technical commission to investigate safety conditions in Libyan airports with the resumption of Tunisair flights to Tripoli dependent on the commission’s report.
Maatoug also said the Government of National Accord had agreed with the British Civil Aviation Authority to work with the Security Committee of the Libyan parliament on how to meet EU requirements for lifting the European flight ban on Libya. The Libyan government is looking at resuming air traffic between Libya and Europe next June.
Maatoug said the Libyan government was building a new terminal in Tripoli, repairing the existing airport and improving Mitiga International Airport, 8km east of Tripoli city centre.