September 19, 2010 / 9:55 AM / 10 years ago

Libya's airlines expect to merge soon

An Alitalia plane approaches to land at Fiumicino International Airport in Rome, September 25, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s two state-owned airlines, which have been spending millions of dollars expanding their fleets, hope to win government approval next month to merge, the head of the carriers’ parent company told Reuters.

Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways have been in negotiations about a merger for several years but the plan has been repeatedly delayed.

“The decision will be announced by around mid-October ... Afriqiyah and Libyan Airlines will be one company,” Sabri Shadi, chairman of the Libyan African Aviation Holding Company (LAAHC), told Reuters in an interview.

He said the management of both airlines had agreed to the merger and the last remaining hurdle was approval from the Libyan government.

“This decision will give us a strong company, a lot of aircraft, help us provide a good service, help us train our staff and reduce costs,” Shadi said.

Both airlines — which are controlled by LAAHC but operate as separate companies — have seen rapid growth since international sanctions on Libya were lifted in 2004.

Libyan Airlines has ordered seven new Airbus A320 aircraft to add to its existing fleet. A source with the airline told Reuters the first of the jets had been delivered on Friday, and a further three were expected before the end of this year.

A nearly-new Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330-200 flying from Johannesburg to Tripoli crashed on landing in May. The crash killed 103 passengers and crew and left only one survivor, a 9-year-old Dutch boy.

A Libyan commission of investigation, in preliminary findings obtained by Reuters, found no evidence that there had been any technical fault with the aircraft.

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