In light of Iraq’s complicated political and security climate, even the most optimistic could not expect Baghdad International Airport to have 125 flights — even including both arrivals and departures — in a single day.
The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority ranks Baghdad International Airport as the largest airport in Iraq. It registered 125 flights on March 20, probably the highest number of daily flights in the history of this airport, which suffers from major problems in terms of infrastructure, equipment and services.
In 2006, Baghdad airport had more than four flights per day. Yet those currently in charge of the airport expect a significant increase in aircraft movement in the next few months, as part of a plan to advance commercial aviation and maximize its revenues in a country where 92% of the annual budget relies on oil money.
Commercial aviation in Iraq has witnessed significant improvements over the past two years, after relative security stability was achieved in the country.
Iraqi Airways, the national carrier of Iraq, seeks to start flights to new destinations, while Baghdad itself is becoming a popular destination.
This month, the first Iraqi Airways flight took off from Britain and landed in the Sulaymaniyah International Airport in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, after the route had been suspended for 23 years.
Iraqi Airways had suspended its flights to a large number of European countries, after Kuwait filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for damage to its aircraft during the Iraqi invasion of 1990. Kuwait had requested $1.2 billion be paid to Kuwait Airways.
In early 2013, Iraq succeeded in settling this judicial dispute, paying Kuwait Airways $500 million. The first flight via Iraqi Airways landed in Kuwait on Feb. 27, 2013, in a step in the application of the agreement between the two countries.
Iraqi Airlines is planning on opening to new markets in the region. The regional director of Iraqi Airlines for Egypt and North Africa, Qayssar Hachimi, said that the cooperation between the Iraqi Airlines and its Egypt counterpart has “perfectly come into effect.” Hachimi, however, did not reveal details.
Moreover, a few days ago Qatar Airways announced that it will launch scheduled flights to Basra and Sulaymaniyah this summer.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar al-Baker said, “After years of restricted air access for foreign airlines in many parts of Iraq, Qatar Airways has been working with the authorities to open up services. We were glad to have expanded our operations in such a short period of time and to do our bit in the country’s reconstruction efforts.”
“Qatar Airways is offering new travel options to the people of Iraq and for those involved in the reconstruction efforts of the country,” he added.
Flights to Basra are due to begin on June 3, with those to Sulaymaniyah starting on Aug. 20.