Alitalia first Western nation to resume flights to Libya


Italy has become the first Western nation to resume commercial flights to Libya as air travel in the North African nation returns to normal after eight months of conflict.

Last Wednesday an Alitalia aircraft with 100 passengers on board touched down in the capital Tripoli at 2:00 pm local time. It was met by Italy’s new ambassador to Libya, Goffredo Buccino.
“Italy is the first country in the European Union to resume commercial flights with Libya, confirming our leading role in the country,” Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a statement.
“This is an important signal confirming progress in the normalisation of the situation in Libya and a full recovery of economic and human bilateral ties with a particularly close and friendly country.”

Italy was Libya’s colonial master and has enjoyed strong ties with Muammar Gaddafi before the uprising at the beginning of this year. Italy is a strong trading partner and Italian oil company ENI is the biggest foreign energy producer in Libya.

Alitalia last flew to Libya eight months ago. Last year Alitalia transported 75 000 passengers on the Rome-Tripoli route.

Meanwhile, other airlines have also resumed flights to Libya. Turkish Airlines resumed flights from Istanbul to Benghazi on September 13 after halting flights on February 28 and Royal Jordanian resumed flights to Benghazi on September 15.

A Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 became the first commercially scheduled aircraft to land in Tripoli since the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya when it landed at Mitiga International Airport on October 1. The flight from Istanbul carried 43 passengers into Libya.

Turkish Airlines and EgyptAir were the first to begin flying again while BMI and Austrian Airlines say they will do so later this month and next month. British Airways, however, has said it is too early to make a decision.

Sanctions against the domestic Libyan Airlines were lifted at the beginning of September. Sanctions were put in place against the airline on April 12, as the airline was wholly owned by the state. On May 23 Afriqiyah Airways was also added to the sanctions list as it was owned by the Libyan African Investment Portfolio, owned and controlled by the Gaddafi regime. Afriqiyah and Libyan were in the process of merging when unrest broke out.

Both airlines suffered damage to aircraft during fighting at the capital’s international airport. One Airbus A300-600 belonging to Libyan Airways was destroyed while one Afriqiyah A300-600 and one A320, which was less than a year old, were destroyed. Several of Afriqiyah’s A330-200s and A320s were damaged.