Sep 19 2012
By Fareed Hassan
Azzaman, September 19, 2012
More foreign airlines are flying directly to Iraqi airports, an indication the country is slowly returning to normalcy and quiet after years of violence.
Major airlines have scheduled flights to Baghdad now and some have added other major Iraqi cities to their destinations.
The busiest Iraqi airports are now Baghdad, Arbil and Basra.
But lately, the airport in Najaf, Iraq’s holiest city, has emerged as a destination for international scheduled flights particularly from countries with Muslim Shiite minorities.
Najaf and Karbala are visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.
The Emirates currently runs three direct flights one to each of Baghdad, Basra and Arbil.
Iraqi Airways, grounded for decades, is seeking to have a big share in the lucrative Iraqi and Middle East market.
Prior to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had a fleet of 15 modern planes and its national carrier was hailed as among the safest and most efficient in the world.
A signal of the country’s slow economic progress and integration into world markets is the $5.5 billion it has signed with Boeing and commitments and options for up to 55 new passenger planes.
The planes, once delivered, will turn the national carrier into one of the biggest in the Middle East.