Libya said it’s negotiating an order for six Bombardier Inc. CSeries planes and is also in contact with Boeing Co. about the re-engined 737 amid surging demand for air travel three years after the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi.
Libyan Airlines aims to swap eight Bombardier CRJ900 turboprops for a mix of CS100 and CS300 jets, and sister carrier Afriqiyah Airways is in talks on the 737 Max as it seeks 10 planes to replace Airbus Group NV A320s, said Ali Elayan, general manager of Libyan African Aviation Holding Co.
“There’s a lot of outbound and inbound traffic,” Elayan said in a telephone interview from Tripoli. “The Libyans are doing better financially and traveling for both leisure and business. It was unexpected after the revolution.”
Load factors at the airlines are above 80 percent, a level of occupancy comparably with top-performing European carriers. Libya is also investing in airport capacity, with international and domestic terminals in the capital and second-city Benghazi 20 percent complete, and 14 airports around the country being fitted out with new ground equipment, Elayan said.
Bombardier executives will arrive in Tripoli on May 15 to continue discussions with Libyan Airlines on a CSeries accord involving six orders and four options, though there is “no deal confirmed,” he said. The executive said he has confidence in the Canadian aircraft even after program delays.
Talks with manufacturers should be completed this year, with funding likely to be via local bank loans, he said. The short-haul jets will be used on Mediterranean and North African routes and also to Europe should Libya’s civil aviation authority broker the lifting of a ban on its carriers, he said.
Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways have a combined 31 aircraft, including five long-haul A330s, of which two more are due for delivery. The North African nation has plans for routes to New York, Montreal and Guangzhou in China using the Airbus wide-bodies, and is awaiting flying rights, he added.
The holding company also expects 10 Airbus A350s to arrive from 2019 and will raise $1 billion for payment in installments starting next year, Elayan said.
“Libya has big ambitions for the future, the fleets are available, and there will be big developments,” he said.