New Libyan Carrier Sees Long-Haul Future With Airbus A350 Fleet

Startup airline Libyan Wings plans to commence short-haul services early next year before building a wider network using Airbus SAS’s latest A350 long-haul plane, which it ordered today at the Dubai Air Show.

The Tripoli-based carrier signed an outline deal for the purchase of three A350-900 jets and four of Airbus’s re-engined A320neo single-aisle aircraft worth $1.2 billion at list prices. Airbus said the planes will be delivered after 2020.

Libyan Wings aims to tap demand spurred by attempts to revive the strife-torn country’s construction and oil and gas industries in competition with state-owned Libyan Airlines and sister carrier Afriqiyah Airways, which together control about 55 percent of the market, according to spokesman Haret Alfasi.

“Business and aviation in Libya -- despite the unrest -- is high,” Alfasi said at a Dubai press conference. “Passenger numbers are through the roof, so there is room for us.”

Libyan Wings faces a wait of some years for the new jets. The A350 is not due for delivery to its first customer until the second half of 2014 and the initial A320neo is slated for late 2015, with orderbooks extensive for both models.

The startup said it will therefore use leased planes to commence operations, and that it envisages a requirement for a 10-strong fleet within five years.

Libyan Wings will initially operate short-haul flights serving Tripoli, Benghazi, Miserata and Tubruk within Libya, together with the neighboring nations of Tunisia and Egypt, where it plans to operate to Cairo and Alexandria, plus Casablanca in Morocco and Istanbul in Turkey.

The carrier is also studying long-haul routes to be served by the A350s. Flights to Libya should be enhanced from 2018 with the completion of a new airport capable of handling about 20 million passengers a year.

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