Iraqi Airways resumes flights to London

Iraqi Airways resumes flights to London

After a 23-year break, Baghdad is now a one-stop flight away from the British capital
Though holiday weekends in Baghdad are pretty much impossible at the moment, the resumption of flights to London is a welcome step forward for Iraq. (File photo)

Iraqi Airways has announced it will resume flights from Baghdad International Airport to London Gatwick starting on March 5.

The resumption is a remarkable development given there hasn’t been a regular scheduled flight between the two capitals since the outbreak of the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

The first flight will depart from London Gatwick at 10 p.m., according to a statement from Iraqi Airways.

The airline will use its newly purchased Airbus A330, A321 and A320 planes to operate two return flights from London to Baghdad and one to Sulaimaniya every week.

“The frequency will increase to six flights a week by June 15, 2013," said the airline.

"All return flights will stop in Malmo, Sweden, for a period of one hour for security reasons before entering the UK. The routes have already been granted permission by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.” 

Iraqi Airways' business class section. Online booking isn't possible at this time. Those who search for flights are advised to fill in a contact form and are told an Iraqi Airways official will be in touch. Or they can contact the airline's U.K. office, at +44 (0)2 07 724 8455.

A round-trip Baghdad-London ticket starts from £468 (US$724) per person for an economy seat, £1,399 (US$2,164) for business class. 

The announcement comes on the heels of the airline’s acceptance of its first widebody Airbus A330-200 in December 2012, part of an ongoing fleet renewal program.

"The A330-200 will allow us to grow our international routes," said Iraqi Airways general manager Saad Mahdi Saeed Al-Khafaji. 

But don’t pack your bags yet, pleasure seekers. Tourist visas for Iraq aren't currently being granted and most countries continue to advise against travel to the country. 

The service is expected to be mainly of interest to Iraqi expats and students living in the UK. 

More on CNN: New wealth brings luxury shopping to Iraq

Troubled history

Founded in 1945, Iraqi Airways is one of the oldest airlines in the Middle East. It's based at Baghdad International Airport. 

Though the March 5 flights will be the first scheduled flights to the United Kingdom in 23 years, Iraqi Airways has been flying to the European Union since 2009.

That year the flag carrier sent its first flight to the EU in 19 years when an aircraft flew from Baghdad to Stockholm via Athens. 

In 2010, Iraqi Airways attempted to restart Baghdad/London service and even flew its first commercial flight to the United Kingdom in 20 years, filled with government officials. But regular service never materialized.

The airline was set to be dissolved and the U.K. flights were dropped due to a row with Kuwait over war reparations, a decision that was reversed in 2011.  

Today Iraqi Airways services more than a dozen domestic and international routes.

More on CNN: Can Iraq's geeks save the country?  

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