'Boarding now for Baghdad' – BMI prepares to reopen air links with Iraq

The departure boards at Heathrow could soon be augmented by the return of a city that fell off the airline map 18 years ago: Baghdad. Even though the Foreign Office warns against all travel to the Iraqi capital, one of Britain's leading airlines hopes to launch a link from London within a year.

"BMI is ready and willing to re-establish air links between Heathrow and Baghdad," said Nigel Turner, the airline's chief executive. He has met senior Iraqi government officials in a bid to secure rights for the route: "The ability to travel by air between Heathrow and Baghdad is vital in supporting the considerable energy going into bringing business ties and investment back to normality," said Mr Turner.

BMI, which is the second-biggest airline at Heathrow, already serves a number of "niche" destinations in the region, including Yerevan in Armenia and Aleppo in Syria. It has shifted away from highly competitive short-haul European and long-haul transatlantic services to "mid-haul" links where it faces few rivals. From Heathrow to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, for example, the lowest return fare is £599, about twice the rate for a flight to Boston, which is the same distance from London. Fares to Baghdad are likely to be higher still.

BMI will target business, government and NGO travellers, as well as "VFR" traffic – people visiting friends and relations. It will also capitalise on its membership of the Star Alliance, with airlines such as Air Canada and United of the US transferring passengers at Heathrow.

The airline is likely to have the route to itself, at least initially. A spokeswoman for British Airways said the company had "no current plans" to return to the route it abandoned in 1991. A spokeswoman for the leading flight specialist, Trailfinders, said: "We've not registered any significant level of enquiries for travel to Iraq."

Before BMI begins services to Baghdad, the UK government will need to rescind its existing ban on direct links between the two countries. In addition, safety concerns about the airport must addressed to the satisfaction of the airline's security officials.

The only UK tour operator to Iraq is Hinterland Travel, which ran its first trip to the country in March. The company's founder, Geoff Hann, said he had already taken bookings for next year.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence