Monday, March 30, 2009

Iraqi Airways resumes flights to the European Union

The carrier flew from Baghdad to Stockholm - via Athens - Iraq’s transport ministry announced.

Iraqi Airways’ planes were grounded by an international embargo following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Flights to a number of Arabic countries, including Iran and Turkey, resumed after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Passengers on board the flight, which took place on Friday, included Iraq’s transport minister Amr Abduljabber Ismail, who visited Athens to discuss the development of transport links between Greece and Iraq.

The Iraqi transport ministry plans to add scheduled services to Germany and India.

Some British-based tour operators have begun offering packages to the troubled Middle-Eastern country. One, the Surrey-based Hinterland Travel, has just completed its first tour of Iraq since 2004.

Geoff Hann, the company’s director, said that the expansion of routes to and from Iraq was encouraging and he urged Britons to consider the country as a serious holiday destination.

“Iraq has a tremendous history, dating back to the sixth millennium BC,” he said. “Its presence in the media means that it’s of great interest to everybody.”

Mr Hann – who will accompany all of Hinterland’s Iraqi holidays – said that this month’s tour was a success, though he described security arrangements as “difficult”.

He added that further tours were scheduled for the autumn, taking in destinations such as Baghdad, Babylon, Nippur, Warka, Ur and Basra. He described interest as “high”.

Meanwhile, Rotana, a luxury hotel group, is scheduled to open a £37 million, five-star hotel in the Iraqi city of Erbil at the end of the year.

The 205-room hotel is expected to cater largely for business travellers.