First European flight puts Iraq back in business

A French Airbus carrying politicians, businessmen and journalists landed at Baghdad airport yesterday, blazing a trail for the first, sustained commercial flights from Europe to the Iraqi capital since the first Gulf war in 1990.

From January, the small French airline Aigle Azur plans to venture where larger companies – mostly for commercial reasons – fear to tread. Flights exist to Baghdad from several Middle Eastern countries, and even from Australia, but there are no other direct links from Europe.

The test flight yesterday, carrying 40 French businessmen and the French Trade Minister, Anne-Marie Idrac, is regarded by the Iraqi government as an important step towards the normalisation of relations with the outside world. It is regarded by the French government as a step towards rebuilding the strong economic links which existed between France and Iraq before the UN sanctions imposed on the Saddam Hussein regime in the early 1990s.

After stepping from the Aigle Azur Airbus A319 at Baghdad International Airport, Ms Idrac said: "This is a new chance for the development of business between France and Iraq but more globally, between Europe and Iraq."

Yesterday's flight coincided with the opening today of the Baghdad International Trade Fair, which has attracted interest from 1,200 companies and 15 countries around the world.

Austrian Airlines already flies from Vienna to Irbil in the Kurdish part of Iraq. The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Gulf Air from Bahrain, and MEA from Beirut have direct flights to Baghdad.

But there have been no regular commercial flights from Europe since 1990, other than a brief foray by Nordic Airways which flew from Copenhagen to Baghdad for a couple of weeks in January last year before its operating license was withdrawn. Lufthansa studied the possibility of flights from Germany earlier this year but decided that there was not yet sufficient demand.

It is hardly surprising that the idea did not instantly prove commercially appealing. When flights into the airport were threatened by missile fire at the height of the conflict, pilots adopted a hair-raising corkscrew manoeuvre as they approached the airport to avoid being hit.

But now prospects look a little brighter. The Iraqi national carrier, Iraqi Airways, tried to start flights to London in April but withdrew after Kuwait took legal steps to impound the inaugural plane to recover debts from the Iraqi invasion of the small Gulf state in 1990. Iraq has since dissolved Iraqi Airways. A new, private Iraqi airline, Al Nasr, is expected to start occasional flights to London this month.

Aigle Azur, which already flies between France and Africa, plans to fly twice a week from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Baghdad from the new year. This will not – initially at any rate – be a cut-price option for people seeking a weekend trip to an unusual destination. An economy seat will cost ¤1,500 (£1,300) return. Business class will be ¤2,500 return.

The president of Aigle Azur, Arezki Idjerouidene, said yesterday: "We already have a great deal of interest from almost all European countries, from the United States and from west Africa. I am touched that our company will be able to participate in this way in the reconstruction of Iraq."

Nasser Hussein Badr, the official in charge of aviation at the Iraqi Transport Ministry, said: "The resumption of flights between France and Iraq shows that our relations with Europe are on the way to being normalised."

Dangerous airports

In the past two decades, Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport has been a key target for Tamil Tiger rebels. Two years ago, the airport was forced to close at night for two months following a series of Tamil Tiger air strikes.

Lawless Somalia has an airport to match, and in September nine civilians were killed by two suicide bombs by Al-Shabab insurgents.

Birmingham airport is not quite so hazardous – but this year more than 50 flights have been attacked by strong lasers that can blind pilots as they land.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living