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Dublin's ACL in Libya airline deal

Friday, February 28 12:55:11

Dublin-based Air Contractors Ltd (ACL) has signed an agreement with Libya's Afriqiyah Airways that will enable the Libyan airline to fly unrestricted into Europe by the beginning of May.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Under the two-year deal signed earlier this month, the Irish firm will operate three of Afriqiyah's latest Airbus 320s on European routes using the carrier's existing crews and ground staff. It means that the airline will no longer be shackled by the ban on Libyan aircraft flying into EU airspace in force since April 2012.

"The only way to operate again [in Europe] was to get our aircraft registered elsewhere," Afriqiyah's CEO Abubaker Elfortia has told the Libya Herald.

The sole difference passengers will see, he says, is a change in the registration number on the back of the aircraft - from one beginning 5A (the code for Libya) to EI (for Ireland). The staff will be the same, the logo and colours the same, the service the same, according to the English language Libya Herald online publication.

The target date for agreement coming into effect the end of April. "We have the support of the Libyan Ministry of Transport, the Irish Department of Transport [Tourism and Sport], and the Irish Aviation Authority," Elfortia explains.

Libya aircraft have been operating a self-imposed ban since April 2012 over EU concerns about Libyan aviation standards. It went for a self-ban because one imposed by the EU, once in place, would take much longer to lift. Originally it was expected that it would end in November 2012, by which point the European concerns would have been addressed. In the event, the date has long gone and despite regular Libyan announcements that an end is in sight, aviation sources have told this newspaper that the issues involved proved more challenging than anticipated.