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The Airbus Factor In Air France's Libya Return

Resumption of Tripoli services is partly tied to Airbus purchase.
COMMENT, Business Trends

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Libyan Airlines was presumed to have had more of a leaning towards the United States in the wake of the lifting of sanctions, however, with 15 Airbus jets on order, including four for the A350-800, the pressure on Air France to resume services to Tripoli seem more to be out of duress than choice.

With KLM already servicing the Libyan capital, Air France has for a number of years resisted setting up direct services – that despite the fact that France has plenty of North African Arab connections to the country.

Resumption of flights to Tripoli will of course be dependant on political and economic ties – Libyan Airlines’ decision to purchase the A330 and A350XWB was no accident – it wants in on the Parisian market and what better way to do that by endorsing the products of the home country. That however has not been a smooth transaction – the airline hasn’t been convinced that its purchase has gotten them any extra access to France, nor does it believe the country will benefit from any French investment any time soon.

Libyan Airlines request for more access has been overtly snubbed with just several flights between the two countries and even then a portion of the extra slots it gained were restricted to regional airports that are of no use or interest to the Libyan carrier.

Indeed, some quarters believed that a Boeing buy would have been politically better, not least because the lifting of sanctions would have allowed the possibility of direct flights to the United States.

Air France is acutely aware that as France is home to the biggest Muslim population in Europe, many of whom originate and have widespread links to North Africa, they can ill afford to sit on the sidelines for too long. People want access to Paris, preferably without having to needlessly connect in Amsterdam first.

This column was written by FBE Aerospace analyst Saj Ahmad, the views expressed are his own.

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