The planned merger between Libya’s two national carriers, Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines, will take place within the next two years, says Khaled Sawese, commercial director, Afriqiyah Airways.

Libya was expected to merge the two airlines in 2009 before privatising the new company. The airlines are currently operating under the state-owned Libyan African Aviation Holding Company

Tripoli is keen to streamline its aviation industry to create a profitable business that will be attractive to international investors by removing the unusual scenario of having two national carriers.

While the exact timetable for the merger has not been decided, it is likely to take place in a one to two-year timeframe, a source at the airline tells MEED. It has not yet been decided whether the merger will result in a new airline with a new name.

Afriqiyah Airways is planning to expand its international network as it is currently mainly focussed on the European market with new routes planned to open to Lyon and Milan in 2010.

Other plans involve making Dubai the airline’s second hub with flights starting to Mumbai and Manila through Dubai this year. There are also plans to reroute the Tripoli-Dhaka flight through Dubai as the airline tries to increase its market presence in the Far East.

The carrier currently has a fleet of nine Airbus aircraft, including the A320, A330 and the A319.

Afriqiyah will receive three more Airbus aircraft in the second half of 2010 and will have a fleet of 23 aircraft by 2017 in line with a deal signed with Airbus.

The airline also plans further expansion when the $1.4bn development of Tripoli airport is completed in 2012, a year later than originally planned due to changes in the contract.

Afriqiyah carried about one million passengers in 2009 and this is expected to increase by 300,000 passengers by the time Tripoli airport is finished.