Iraqi Airways eyes Frankfurt as second European destination

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Iraqi Airways is planning to launch flights to Frankfurt in April, as it looks to rapidly expand its European network following the resumption of flights to London.

"We're in the process of starting up routes to Frankfurt," Abir Burhan, Iraqi Airways UK operations manager, told Flightglobal on 5 March. He was speaking during the launch of the flag carrier's first nonstop scheduled flight from London to Baghdad for 23 years.

"We're working very hard with the German GSA," Burhan says. "Frankfurt should be operating in a month. The GSA is already free to advertise it."

Dusseldorf will likely become the third European city to enter Iraqi Airways' network "around the same time", he adds, while Copenhagen is being considered as a possible fourth destination.

The flag carrier's Airbus A320s will be deployed on the upcoming European routes. Its Baghdad-London Gatwick service is being operated with an A330.

"Setting up these routes, especially to London, will show Iraq as an established nation, as a forward thinking and capable nation - just like any other modern and wealthy country," Burhan says. "Iraqi Airways is an advertising banner for the country. And it shows Iraq is back on track."

The flag carrier has been trying to re-enter Europe since 2004 - one year after the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein - having withdrawn from the continent in the 1990s amid stringent international sanctions.

But a long-running dispute with Kuwait Airways over the alleged theft of 10 aircraft by Saddam's troops repeatedly derailed its efforts. Iraqi Airways' long-awaited fleet renewal - centering on an order for 30 Boeing 737-800s and 10 787-8s - had also been disrupted.

The dispute was settled late last year, with Iraqi Airways agreeing to pay $500 million compensation to its neighbour. Kuwait had been demanding $1.2 billion through the British justice system in what became England's longest running commercial court case.

"It was on the agenda of the government just to end this legal dispute," Burhan says. "As countries we're neighbours. There was no reason why we shouldn't settle our differences and just become completely friendly neighbours."