BMI expresses formal interest in opening Iraqi route

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UK operator BMI is interested in opening a link to the Iraqi capital Baghdad, and has met with Iraqi Government representatives with a view to establishing a connection.

Neither UK nor Iraqi airlines fly between the two countries and BMI - which gained a Middle Eastern network when it took over British Mediterranean Airways - says any service will depend on security, regulatory and operational considerations.

But BMI, which met Iraqi representatives during a business forum in London, says it is "ready, willing and ideally-placed" to operate between London Heathrow and Baghdad.

Chief executive Nigel Turner says the carrier has put forward a formal communication to the Iraqi transport minister.

"The ability to travel by air between Heathrow and Baghdad is vital in supporting the considerable energy that is going into bringing business ties and investment back to normality," adds Turner.

He says that extending its network to Iraq makes "both geographical and economic sense" given that BMI already operates to neighbouring Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Jordan.

While there are no direct links between the UK and Iraq, Star Alliance member BMI carries Baghdad-bound passengers to Amman where connecting services are available.

"We are carrying an ever-increasing number of passengers [heading for Iraq]," says Turner. "As trade and business ties grow we envisage that these numbers will grow."

Iraqi Airways, which used to serve London, has indicated that it also wants to re-establish links between the cities but there are no firm plans in place.