Afriqiyah returns to London Gatwick with wet leased A320

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Afriqiyah Airways restored direct flights from Tripoli to London Gatwick airport on 3 July, bypassing an EU ban on Libyan carriers by wet leasing an Airbus A320 from Air Moldova.

Libya’s second flag carrier signed a six-month, sub wet-lease contract with Air Moldova for the aircraft (MSN 0741), which will be deployed three times weekly on the London route.

The airline last flew to Gatwick in early 2011, before the uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.

"We have started to operate [the route] but not with our own aircraft," a spokesman confirms to Flightglobal, adding that Afriqiyah’s own fleet remains prohibited from EU airspace.

All Libyan carriers voluntarily agreed to halt flights to the EU in April 2012, when European air safety regulators voiced concerns about Tripoli’s investigation into the May 2010 crash of an Afriqiyah A330 that claimed 103 lives.

At the time, the European Commission identified multiple safety issues concerning pilot training and maintenance work, which it said Libyan regulators had failed to investigate.

However, Libya’s civil aviation authority has now taken "positive steps" to address the EU’s concerns, the Afriqiyah spokesman says, adding that he is optimistic the ban will be lifted. Once this happens, Afriqiyah plans to serve Gatwick with its own aircraft.

"Very soon there will be corrective action. Every point [raised by the EU] is being taken care of," the spokesman insists, citing recent discussions between the airline and regulators.

The 1997-build aircraft on wet lease from Air Moldova is owned by BBAM, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database. It had previously been operated by TACA until 2009, and was also wet leased to RAK Airways for a brief period last year.

The EU ban on Libyan carriers runs until at least 22 November, though neither Afriqiyah nor sister flag carrier Libyan Airlines have been formally added to the EU’s blacklist.