Friday, January 15, 2010
Lufthansa to resume flights to Baghdad
German airline Lufthansa on Tuesday signalled its confidence in Iraq’s economic recovery when it became the first major European or US carrier in 20 years to announce the resumption of scheduled flights to Baghdad. Europe’s largest airline said it was planning to fly to the Iraqi capital from Frankfurt and Munich some time this summer, hoping to profit from rising demand for such a service from European, American, and Iraqi business people. “We reckon there’ll be demand not just for flights into Iraq, but also demand from Iraqi citizens to fly to Europe, the US, and also Africa,” a Lufthansa spokesman said, although he declined to give any details about the routes.The Frankfurt-based airline said it would be able to give more details about the frequency of the new service once the German and Iraqi governments had finalised a bilateral air-traffic treaty, which the two nations started negotiating in October.A spokesman for the transport ministry signalled an agreement was in the offing. “Both sides have stressed that they wish to resume traditionally friendly air-traffic relations between the two countries,” the spokesman said. Like European and US rivals, Lufthansa stopped flying to Baghdad in 1990 when a US-led force liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in what became known as the first Gulf War against then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.Since the overthrow of his dictatorship by a US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq has struggled to exploit its vast crude oil reserves, battling internal division and domestic terrorism while still trying to lure foreign investors.But, with security apparently improving, the Iraqi government now hopes to triple oil output to 7m barrels a day over the next six years, and has awarded oil-exploitation rights to a string of international companies in recent months.Lufthansa said it also planned to fly to Erbil, in oil-rich northern Iraq. The city has been served from Vienna – with security-related interruptions – since 2006 by Austrian Airlines, which was taken over by Lufthansa last year.