Libyan Airlines is aiming to complete its long-proposed merger with Afriqiyah Airways within two years, to strengthen the carriers' competitive position. Both airlines are already under a single holding company, Libyan African Aviation, but are yet to proceed to full integration.
"We are trying to work something out with Afriqiyah," said Libyan Airlines chief Mohamed Ibsem at the AFRAA meeting in Maputo. "Initially we will codeshare and then we will go into one airline, through a merger, to make the business worthwhile. The idea is for this to take place within two years."
The carriers are hoping to gain stronger negotiating power from the merger. "While we are separate, people treat us as small airlines. I think after the merger we will be in a better condition to compete and negotiate with the mega-carriers," says Ibsem.
Combined, Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways would operate a fleet of 35 aircraft, including 16 long-haul jets. Ibsem adds: "Our network would go up to around 50 destinations when we merge, but that would be certain to increase later on."
In the meantime, Libyan Airlines is to create a new leisure brand, which it will roll out when it receives the first of its seven new Airbus A320s next autumn.
Ibsem says Libyan Airlines will offer holiday packages, including flights and accommodation, under a new brand to keep the product isolated from its normal regional operations.
"It will be a separate operation, but it will be organised by Libyan Airlines," he says. "Our target is to attract more passengers and help increase the load factor of our aircraft. By the time our first A320 is delivered, around September 2010, we should have the brand ready."