The history of air transport in Libya dates back to the establishment of Libyan Airlines in 1964. In recent years the country’s air transport segment has faced significant uncertainties, including political instability, investment shortfalls and outdated infrastructure. These challenges have resulted in disruptions to air travel, with major airports in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata having experienced shutdowns and delays.

Today, Misrata International Airport (MIA) is experiencing a period of expansion. In September 2022 it opened an 8000-sq-metre departure hall with an annual passenger capacity of 1.5m. The inauguration ceremony was led by the acting incumbent prime minister and the minister of transport, and was attended by the head of the Libya Airports Authority. The expansion was funded on a public-private basis by local businesses and public entities such as the Municipal Council of Misrata, the Libyan Iron and Steel Company, and the MFZ.

In April 2023 a delegation from the International Civil Aviation Organisation inspected MIA in preparation for an audit delegation later in 2023, part of a broader effort to lift EU bans on Libyan airports and carriers. Regular flights are available from MIA to Istanbul, Turkey; Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; and Tunis and Sfax, Tunisia. The lifting of restrictions should bolster growth in the aviation segment, both in Misrata and nationally.

Despite the ban, there are significant opportunities for expansion and investment in the air transport segment. The government has expressed a commitment to reform and modernise the industry, including by privatising airports and encouraging the creation of new airlines. This could attract foreign investment and expertise to improve air transport efficiency and safety.

A particular area of growth potential is the development of low-cost airlines. Budget airline Ryanair was in talks with Libyan authorities as of November 2022. That same year Malta- and Libya-based airline Med Sky launched to operate routes between Libya and Europe. A handful of airlines currently operate in the country, with Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways being the major players. Introducing low-cost carriers could increase competition and innovation in the market, offering more options for travellers and boosting tourism, which could stimulate the economy and create job opportunities.

In addition to low-cost airlines, the government has signed agreements with international companies to develop airport infrastructure. For example, Turkish construction company Metis was working on a new passenger terminal at Tripoli International Airport as of March 2023 to increase the airport’s capacity and improve the passenger experience. This is just one of the many projects aimed at modernising airport infrastructure and air traffic control systems to improve the overall efficiency and safety of air transport.

Moving forwards, Misrata and Libya’s strategic location could attract more airlines and increase air traffic, leading to economic growth and development in the aviation segment. Additionally, international companies have shown interest in investing in aviation infrastructure, which could further improve growth prospects.