ROUTES AFRICA: Afriqiyah Shelves Long-Awaited Libyan Merger Plan

Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines have suspended plans for a merger as the two flag carriers' home market struggles to contain a simmering civil war as worsening violence across the North African country steadily encroaches into the aviation sector in 2014.

Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines have suspended plans for a merger as the two flag carriers' home market struggles to contain a simmering civil war, according to regional industry trade publication African Aerospace. "We are not working on this [merger] right now," Afriqiyah chairman Abdulhakim Fares said on the sidelines of the recent International Air Transport Association (IATA) AGM in Doha, Qatar. "We are working together as friends, not competing. They [Afriqiyah and Libyan] may stay separate for some time."

Asked by a representative of the publication if the two companies – both subsidiaries of Libyan Afriqiyah Aviation Holding Company – will be merged by the end of the decade, Fares responded: "It's impossible to say."

Worsening violence across the North African country has steadily encroached into the aviation sector in 2014. A bomb was detonated on Tripoli Airport's runway in March, while Benghazi Benina Airport was closed in mid-May because of a military assault by forces loyal to General Khalifa Hifter.

Fares added that efforts to lift the so-called "voluntary ban" on Libyan carriers entering EU airspace have not progressed. "It's not fair," he told the magazine. "They say it's a CAA issue, but they're not doing anything to help us. Our security and safety is up to standard."

While the ban remains in place, three of Afriqiyah's Airbus A320s are being transferred to Air Contractors’ Irish registry on a two-year deal so that they can be deployed on European routes. This will enable it to end the costly exercise of wet-leasing equipment from other operators, including Tunisian carriers Tunisair and Nouvelair. The first example entered scheduled passenger service on June 3, 2014 between Tripoli and London Gatwick and soon after on flights to the German city of Dusseldorf.

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