Alitalia has flown its first passenger service to Libya since departing the country eight months ago. The flight left Fiumicino airport in the Italian capital on Wednesday, carrying mostly Libyan residents, overjoyed to be finally returning home. Alitalia suspended operations to the North African country after civil war and violent demonstrations broke out against the Gadhafi regime.

Rebel forces have overthrown the government and the late dictator is now gone. As peace returns, it is likely that other European carriers will either return to the route or add it to their schedules. Air France stopped flying to Libya more than two decades ago, but is rumoured to be looking into returning.

British Airways has said that it too may resume operations, but not until NATO has lifted its no-fly stipulations. Airlines which have already retuned to Tripoli include EgyptAir and Turkish Airlines. BMI and Austrian Airlines have both announced that they are aiming to be flying passengers to and from the country before the year is out.

The Alitalia flight was welcomed by Goffredo Buccino who recently took up the post off ambassador to Libya. Although the flight landed at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport, the airline said it intends to start flying to the city’s international hub within a few days.

Flight AZ 868 was carrying 100 passengers. A Libyan doctor who was returning home on the flight said that it was important to see Alitalia resuming its services. He added that it indicated a new found freedom, and that he was extremely happy.