By Adam Nathan (@adamgnathan).
Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport will reopen “within the next month”, according to Dr Mohamed Bitelmal, President of the Libyan Airports Authority (LAA).
Located on the city's eastern outskirts, the Libyan capital's only functioning airport has been closed for three months following bombardment by forces loyal to eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Since the summer, those wishing to travel to Tripoli have been forced to fly instead to Misrata and to reach the capital by road, which can be a dangerous journey. The closure has caused massive inconvenience for businesses and damaged the capital’s economy.
“Mitiga airport will be open for passengers in three to four weeks,” Bitelmal said in an interview with Libya Business News on the side-lines of a conference in Tunis hosted by the Libyan British Business Council (LBBC).
Bitelmal said that the airport had been closed due to “flooding”, which he claimed was unconnected to the bombardment by forces loyal to Haftar. He said that new marble floors had been laid, a new roof put on to prevent more flooding, and new check-in gates ordered.
“I think customers will see huge improvements when we open,” Bitelmal said. “The check in gates may not be ready but we will keep on re-fitting the airport gradually. The new marble floors are already laid down.”
Some delegates at the LBBC conference greeted the news with a degree of scepticism, pointing out that previous announcements that the airport was re-opening had proved premature.
Last month, Milad Maatoug, Transport Minister of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), announced the reopening of Mitiga airport. However, since that announcement no commercial flights have landed or taken off.
Forces loyal to commander Haftar have claimed that the airport is being used for GNA military operations and is therefore a legitimate target for their drone strikes.
(Picture: Recent refurbishment work at Mitiga Airport)