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United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier, Emirates Airline will restart passenger flights between its Dubai International Airport hub and the northern Iraqi city of Erbil from August 15, 2015. Its latest schedule inventory also highlights a return of the carrier’s flights to the country’s capital, Baghdad, from the end of October 2015.
Emirates has been active in Iraq for over four years having first launched flights between Dubai and Basra in February 2011. It added launched services to Baghdad in November 2011 and then Erbil from August 2012. However, it closed the Baghdad and Erbil routes at the start of March this year due to security concerns as large parts of Iraq fell under the control of Da’esh. It had also temporarily suspended services to Erbil between August and November 2014 due to safety concerns with its flights.
The most recent closure of the route followed shortly after all UAE-based airlines were ordered to stop flights into Baghdad after a flydubai Boeing 737-800 carrying 154 passengers came under small-arms fire as it landed at the city’s International Airport. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident, but the aircraft sustained damage to its fuselage and resulted in the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) banning flights pending a review of safety and security.
Emirates now says that after a comprehensive review of its operations as well as a detailed risk assessment it can confidently resume flights to Erbil from next month, with Baghdad services expected to follow from late October. The airline will offer a four times weekly link on the Dubai – Erbil route using Airbus A330-200 equipment in a combination of two class and three class configurations.
“We have been closely observing the situation in northern Iraq and upon a comprehensive review of our operations as well as a detailed risk assessment that is in line with Emirates’ safety standards, we decided to recommence our services to Erbil,” confirmed Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, divisional senior vice president commercial operations, Centre, Emirates Airline.
However, the airline is to introduce a precautionary rerouting of its flightpath between Dubai and Erbil, resulting in longer flight times for our passengers. This will add approximately 30 minutes to the journey with scheduled block times increasing from 2 hours 40 minutes previously to just over three hours ten minutes when it resumes.
“The safety of our passengers, crew and aircraft are taken extremely seriously and will not be compromised,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla. “The return of the link will help support the wider business community in resuming their activities in Erbil which had been disrupted by conflict.”
In addition to passenger operations, Emirates SkyCargo will offer 17 tonnes of cargo capacity between Dubai and Erbil on the A330-200. Emirates will also resume operations of a Boeing 777 Freighter, which has the capacity to carry just over 100 tonnes of cargo. Commodities expected to be carried include products such as mobile phones, telephones, hand-held equipment, electronics like laptops and semiconductors.