Air France may restart Libya flights: spokeswoman

23rd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Air France may reopen its route from Paris to Tripoli more than two decades after suspending it due to a 1989 attack on an airliner that killed 170 people, the carrier said on Monday.

"The Paris Charles de Gaulle to Tripoli route is among the destinations of potential interest to Air France," a spokeswoman for the French airline told AFP, without indicating when a decision would be made.

The question of French flights to Libya has been sensitive since September 19, 1989, when a DC10 flown by French carrier UTA crashed into the desert in Niger, killing all 170 people on board, mostly Congolese, Chadian and French.

Traces of explosives were found in the wreckage and French prosecutors blamed the Libyan secret service for ordering the attack.

Relations between the two countries soured, but have gradually improved. In 2004 they signed an agreement over compensation for the victims' families.

"Air France is closely following the development of economic ties between France and Libya and the potential development of connecting traffic via Charles de Gaulle," France's biggest airport, the spokeswoman said on Monday.

UTA was taken over by Air France, which has so far not followed other major European carriers in resuming flights to Tripoli after an embargo against Libya under its leader Moamer Kadhafi was lifted in 2003.

The Air France spokeswoman said Air France-KLM, the partnership in which the French airline shares bookings with the Netherlands' top carrier, already runs six flights a week to the Libyan capital from Amsterdam.

A spokesman for the pilots' union SNPL, which has blocked previous plans to resume the route, said it was not opposed in principle but the move would depend on working conditions and safety.

A report in the French business daily La Tribune said Air France could run three or four flights a week on the four-hour route using its Airbus A320 aircraft.

© 2010 AFP

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