Sunday, November 11, 2012

Iraqi Airways .... New Beginings

Finally, Iraq received Kuwait's ratification of the Iraqi airline dispute settlements; five hundred million US dollars to be paid by mid 2013 (click here for full story). This will set the stage of a comeback of Iraqi Airways. The airline stopped operating in 1990 at the time of the first Gulf war. After the second Gulf war in 2003, Iraqi Airways relaunched and used several wet leases to operate on its behalf but was hampered by the law suits filed by Kuwait Airways in the UK.

Iraqi airways founded in 1945 is one of the oldest airlines of the region. It was never one of the most efficient or ambitious airlines. It was the essence of a government owned airline, there to show the flag. The airline had extensive maintenance facilities to support its B727, B737 and B747 fleet, but contracted out most of its maintenance.

In May 2008 an order for 30 B737s and 10 B787s, with an option for another 15, for deliveries starting in 2013 through 2019 was announced. The deal was to include leased aircraft to commence operations but nothing materialised due to the dispute with Kuwait Airways.

The aviation infrastructure has deteriorated since the 1990, and the government has embarked on a program to rehabilitate the existing airports to accommodate international airlines providing services to Iraq .

Iraq has lost its pool of trained aviation professionals who after 1990, left the country to work elsewhere or just changed careers.

The new Iraqi Airways has a daunting task ahead of it. It has very competitive regional airlines in one of the fastest growing markets in the world. It also has no access to local trained staff; this will require a reliance on an expatriate workforce until such time Iraqi nationals are trained to take over.

Iraqi Airways has not announced any plans for the near future. Needless to say, it will rise again. Iraq is a an oil rich large country with a relatively large population (31 million) that can support domestic operations and a fast growing economy with a large expatriate and immigrant population that will require extensive international flights to support it.

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