The Republic of Iraq is recovering after almost three decades of intermittent conflict, with a number of regional and international carriers having resumed services to the country following years of restricted access.
The country’s main international gateway is Baghdad International Airport, which is also the hub for national carrier Iraqi Airways, one of the Middle East’s oldest airlines. Services between Iraq and Europe resumed in Mar-2013 after a 23 year hiatus. Sulaymaniyah International Airport provides the major access point to the Kurdistan autonomous region, an area of increasing importance to the energy sector.
The Iraq Civil Aviation Authority is the specialist aviation regulator in Iraq. Its activities include airspace policy, flight permissions, safety regulations and economical regulations.
Airports in Iraq
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Kuwait Airways is saddled with one of the oldest and least efficient fleets in the Middle East, but the carrier is reportedly considering postponing its long awaited fleet order with Airbus, in favour of a deal involving short-term aircraft leases. The option to postpone the long-term solution may be the best avenue for the debt-laden carrier to accelerate replacement of its badly ageing aircraft, while sidestepping the political interference that has dogged previous acquisition plans.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Middle East airlines will add more than 50 widebody aircraft this year and another 50 in 2014, as carriers in the region continue to expand their fleets with high-capacity, long-range aircraft to fill out their globe-spanning networks. At the same time, they are dictating the options for other airlines in the region.
More than half of the aircraft scheduled to be delivered to the region over the next five years are widebody aircraft, including large numbers of next generation aircraft types such as the 787 and A350.
In a landmark development for their national carriers, Kuwait and Iraq have reached an agreement to the long running dispute over Iraqi Airways' debts to Kuwait Airways. The USD500 million settlement ends a conflict which has plagued the development of both airlines and also paves the way for the development of a joint Iraqi-Kuwaiti airline venture.
The two countries have initialled a final settlement agreement, under which Iraq agreed to pay Kuwait USD300 million in reparations over the destruction and seizure of Kuwait Airways assets during the 1990-1991 Gulf War. In addition, Iraq pledged to provide another USD200 million for a joint airline venture between the two nations. The funds for the joint venture will be paid in 1H2013. It is not yet clear what the new joint venture carrier will look like or what roles Kuwait Airways and Iraqi Airways will play in its establishment.
Another round of new routes to Iraq is occurring over the next few months, continuing the wave of expansion by international carriers as the country's economy develops and trade links grow. After almost two decades of limited activity, commercial aviation is playing an important role in the redevelopment of Iraq.
Between the early 1990s and 2000, Iraq was faced with heavy international sanctions, effectively preventing commercial travel. Royal Jordanian was the first international carrier to resume operations to the country, initially operating irregular cargo and charter services and then an on-again, off-again scheduled passenger service. It was only after the fall of the Hussein regime in 2003 that commercial airlines began to return to the country in any numbers.
What began as a trickle of airlines and a handful of routes become a torrent at the end of 2008. More than 20 airlines have added services to Iraq over the past three years. In the past six months alone, flydubai, Etihad Airways, Emirates, EgyptAir, Pegasus Airlines, Turkish Airlines and (the now defunct) Viking Hellas have all added new services or extra capacity into the country. Qatar Airways and Jazeera Airways are set to enter the Iraqi market in the next few months.
The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority has developed a new organisational structure to transform its management of flight management control operations and safety and security quality standards. GCAA launched its Comprehensive Transformation Programme in 2010 and has already developed new financial and strategic plans.
The political instability engulfing some North African states has extensive implications for tourism and aviation across the region. Already dozens of governments are warning their citizens to avoid travel to Egypt. Several have chartered aircraft to ferry their nationals out. Cairo Airport has been met with chaotic scenes in the past few days as thousands of foreigners seek to leave. In this special report, CAPA reviews the immediate aviation and tourism impacts from the North Africa/Middle East civil unrest.
Although the downturn in both passenger traffic and cargo volume from late 2007 led to a slowing of airport investment globally there have been signs latterly of renewed interest in new infrastructure investment. The Asia Pacific region is leading the world out of recession in respect of air transport related activity. Growth – both passenger and cargo – is expected to be at least two percentage points higher than the global average in 2010 and 2011, hastening demand for the infrastructure required to handle it.