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Iraq, China reconnect with Baghdad-Beijing flight relaunch

Iraq China reconnect with BaghdadBeijing flight relaunch
Iraq, China reconnect with Baghdad-Beijing flight relaunch

2024-07-11 12:00:05 - Source: Shafaq News

Shafaq News/ Iraqi Airways restarted direct flights between Baghdad and Beijing last week, ending a decade-long suspension and signaling renewed economic ties between the two nations, industry experts said.

The Iraqi Transport Ministry announced that the first flight took off from Baghdad International Airport and landed at Beijing Daxing International Airport. The move re-establishes a vital route, the second after Guangzhou, and is expected to facilitate travel and trade, the ministry added in a statement.

Transportation For Development

"Transportation stands as a cornerstone of sustainable development, unlocking a myriad of opportunities for labor mobility and presenting airlines with the chance to attract high-caliber talent," said economic analyst Ahmed Eid.

"Air transport also facilitates the opening of new markets, fostering competition among global companies, thereby enhancing their efficiency," Eid added. "This translates into reduced service costs, increased service diversity, and ultimately, benefits for customers. Moreover, expanding air travel supports socioeconomic development by improving infrastructure and stimulating commercial and tourism activities."

According to Eid, air transport and the expansion of airline operations generate a multitude of investment and economic opportunities. "They also create abundant employment prospects, national and commercial financial returns, and contribute to substantial revenue streams for the Iraqi state treasury. This is contingent upon professional and transparent management, free from political influences, extortion, and monopolistic control. "

"The income of individuals employed in the aviation sector ranks among the highest globally," the economic analyst stated. "International reports estimate the average annual income of individuals working in air transport and aviation to be around $65,000, equivalent to approximately $5,400 per month. This implies that aviation sector employees contribute disproportionately more to the global economy compared to other sectors."

Economic expert Mustafa Faraj indicated that it also stimulates economic growth and enhances global connectivity. He explained that expanding air travel augments the capacity of airports and airlines, consequently boosting tourism and trade movements.

"Expanding air travel generates a plethora of employment opportunities," Faraj explained. "The expansion of infrastructure requires substantial investments, facilities, technology, and services, all of which require a skilled workforce."

A spokesperson for the Iraqi Transportation Ministry said that the national carrier operates over 40 domestic and international routes, with the newly reinstated China-Baghdad route being a milestone.

"Other prominent routes include Baghdad-Tehran, Baghdad-Istanbul, Baghdad-Ankara, and Baghdad-Antalya, among many others," Spokesperson Maitham al-Safi told Shafaq News Agency. "New routes to Tunisia, Riyadh, and other destinations are also expected."

Iraqi Airways Aircrafts

"Iraqi Airways currently operates 25 aircraft, with a new addition scheduled for this week, bringing the total to 26. Of the previously grounded 24 aircraft, ten have been restored to service, leaving 14, " he said. "Maintenance on five of these is slated for completion by the end of the year, while the remaining nine will be addressed next year, effectively closing the chapter on grounded aircraft."

"An additional 13 modern aircraft are set to join the fleet, bringing the total to 31 by the end of 2027. This represents a significant qualitative leap for Iraqi Airways."

"Revenues doubled in 2023 compared to 2022, and the first six months of 2024 have witnessed a 90% increase over the previous year," Al-Safi affirmed. "This year has been notably free of flight delays and passenger complaints related to Iraqi Airways. Additionally, electronic booking for Iraqi Airways flights will be activated by the end of the current year."

Iraq to Europe

On the European ban, Al-Safi said that Iraqi Airways has been working relentlessly to ensure uninterrupted service for Iraqi passengers traveling to Europe. The company is collaborating with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to address the European ban and obtain the IOSA and TCO certificates, which will pave the way for Iraqi Airways' return to European skies.

Aviation expert Faris Al-Jawari explained that while national carriers like Iraqi Airways serve as economic drivers, they must prioritize customer satisfaction and meet the needs of their nation's citizens.

"Iraqi Airways, as the national carrier, has yet to meet the demands of Iraqi citizens fully," Al-Jawari observed. "While new routes are occasionally opened, like today's Beijing route, other routes remain closed due to the European ban and the company's management's inaction in addressing this issue."

He highlighted, "The China route opened today was long available to Gulf countries and other Asian nations like Malaysia and India, but Iraq lacked it, impacting its citizens. Instead of direct flights from Baghdad to Asian airports, they had to endure costly and time-consuming layovers."

"Similarly, with European countries, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi expatriates face travel difficulties to Iraq. They must transit through Jordan, Qatar, or the UAE, a situation that could have been avoided with effective management of Iraqi Airways," Al-Jawari lamented.

"However, recent attention from the Prime Minister's Office, particularly at a recent meeting attended by the Prime Minister, indicates a growing focus on the European ban. While lifting the ban requires addressing technical and procedural issues, the company's management must take the necessary steps," he urged.

"This 10-year-old ban raises questions about the lack of progress in resolving it," Al-Jawari remarked. "From an observer's perspective, it points to mismanagement within the company itself."

In a June 23 meeting, Prime Minister al-Sudani chaired a gathering of the committee tasked with ending the European ban, underscoring the importance of meeting the requirements set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as quickly as possible.

He emphasized the need to align with global advancements in passenger and cargo air transport, adhering to specific timelines for achieving these goals.

The Prime Minister affirmed that lifting the ban on Iraqi Airways is a top priority for the government, emphasizing that no leniency will be tolerated in this matter. Legal action will be taken against those who fail to fulfill their obligations and follow up on this crucial issue, a press release by his bureau said.

The European air ban on Iraqi Airways dates back to 1991 following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and subsequent international sanctions. The ban was temporarily lifted in 2009 but reinstated in August 2015.

In June 2023, former Transport Minister and current Iraqi Parliament member Amer Abdul-Jabbar announced the extension of the European air ban on Iraqi civil aviation.

According to aviation expert Ismail, the European ban is not a political or tribal issue, nor can it be resolved through pleas or favors. Instead, it requires adherence to the regulations of ICAO and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The Iraqi government and Iraqi Airways must demonstrate a clear commitment to meeting these international standards, prioritizing safety, operational efficiency, and passenger satisfaction.

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