DUBAI 09: Libyan plans Munich and Vienna links

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Libyan Airlines is preparing to launch services to Munich and Vienna as part of the next phase of the carrier's fleet and network expansion plan.

Chief executive Capt Mohamed Ibsem says Madrid, Athens and Ankara were added to the carrier's network earlier this year and "are operating quite nicely".

He says the Tripoli-based carrier had also been planning to begin operating to Munich and Vienna this year but will launch the services at the beginning of its summer 2010 schedule next March.

Ibsem adds Libyan is also looking at potentially launching new services to Eastern European destinations later in 2010.

The carrier operates most of its European routes with three leased Airbus A320s. Libyan has seven new A320s on order, four of which will be delivered over the last four months of next year.

Ibsem says three of the new A320s will be used to replace the three A320s currently in Libyan's fleet while the other four aircraft will be used to add frequencies on existing European routes as well as launch new European routes.

Ibsem says Libyan has also been using some of its five newly-delivered Bombardier CRJ900s, which were ordered in 2008, on European routes. He says the CRJ900s are being used on some of Libyan's shorter links, including its new Madrid and Athens services, as well as some longer connections such as Manchester.

He adds that the CRJ900s are also being used domestically and on regional routes within the Middle East and North Africa regions, including the new Tripoli-Ankara service.

Libyan acquired last month two ATR 42s, which Ibsem says will be used on domestic desert routes.

Market conditions have been difficult this year, he says, but the carrier is bullish on the future and wants to continue to invest in expanding its fleet and network. "We're not in the black but we're surviving," he says.

He adds that Libyan still plans to merge with Libya's other flag carrier, Afriqiyah Airways, although there has been no movement on the merger plan since it was formally put forward last year. Ibsem says consolidation in the Libyan market is "very important".

"The [merger] plan is still there," he says. "When it takes place, I don't know."

Afriqiyah also operates A320-family aircraft as well as A330s, an aircraft type Libyan is adding from 2011.

According to network system Innovata, Libyan faces no competition on its new Tripoli to Athens, Madrid and Ankara services and will face no competition on the Tripoli-Munich route. Austrian Airlines, however, currently serves the Tripoli-Vienna route with five weekly frequencies.