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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Libyan Wings turns to Istanbul

Libyan Wings, which began operations with flights from Tripoli to the Tunisian capital this month, is now looking to launch new routes, including one to Istanbul next month, the airline’s chief executive said on Sunday.

The airline, funded by Libyan investors, has had a passenger load factor of 70 per cent to Tunis since starting on October 7, said Edgardo Badiali, its chief executive.

Libyan Wings was to start operations last year, but the launch was delayed because of fighting between different militia groups for control of Tripoli’s airport in August last year.

Initially, Libyan Wings was supposed to fly to Istanbul as its first destination, but the Turkish government imposed a mandatory visa requirement for Libyan citizens from September 25.

Libyans, however, do not need a visa to enter Tunisia.

“The major issue at the moment is to find good destinations that don’t have visa requirement [for Libyans], because at times you don’t have embassies or consulates in Libya,” said Mr Badiali. “In general, most of the embassies have gone to Tunisia so people need to go to Tunisia and apply [for visas].”

Turkey, however, maintains its embassy in Misurata in Libya, allowing the airline to stick to its plans of launching flights to Istanbul from Libya next month.

Libyan Wings will also launch services to Khartoum in the next few weeks and to Lebanon and Egypt at a later stage.

“In the future it will be good to fly to Egypt. We have 1.5 million Egyptians working in Libya,” said Mr Badiali.

“Istanbul also is important for us. You have a lot of Libyans living there. You also have a lot of Turkish investment in Libya and if the economy picks up, more [Libyans] will come here.”

Libyan Wings is also looking to start a separate freight operation, but this will probably be at a later date once the security situation in the country stabilises. The airline has secured 13,000 square metres of space at its base in Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport.

Mr Badiali said that his company could be profitable within a year if its two aircraft were “used optimally and the market demand continues at the same level”. Libyan Wings operates a pair of A319 aircraft leased from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

The airline had ordered four Airbus A350s and four Airbus A320neos at the Dubai Air Show in 2013, but Mr Badiali did not provide a timeline on the deliveries.

The airline competes with Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways, and smaller carriers such as Buraq Air.

selgazzar@thenational.ae