Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, this week launched its inaugural flight from Abu Dhabi to Basra in southern Iraq.
Flight EY553 took off from Abu Dhabi airport at 9.45am and landed on schedule at Basra International Airport at 10.50am.
The new Airbus A320 service, with 16 Pearl Business class seats and 120 seats in Coral Economy class, will operate four times a week from April 15.
Basra is Etihad Airways’ third destination in Iraq.
“These new services are an important step for Etihad Airways and for the UAE, reflecting a commitment to strengthening ties in the region,” Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan, said.
“Basra is an important industrial and transport hub but currently has limited access to air services. Our new flight will make a significant contribution to improving this situation for the people of the region.”
Oil and gas represent the backbone of the local economy and major companies rotating staff in and out of Basra have expressed strong interest in the new flights.
His Excellency Abdulla Ibrahim Al Zowi Al Shehi, UAE Ambassador to Iraq, said:
“We have witnessed the dramatic growth in bilateral relations recently between the two countries on all levels. Iraq and the UAE have great potential for cooperation and mutual development. Etihad’s services to Baghdad, Erbil and now Basra are vitally important on government and social levels as they strengthen the bridges of understanding between Iraq and the UAE, as well as increasing trade and tourism.”
His Excellency Arshad Tawfiq, Iraqi Ambassador to the UAE stated:
“The opening of direct air routes by Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to Basra, Baghdad and Erbil is an important step to promote trade and tourism between the two countries. It facilitates the movement of business people from both countries and paves the way for investors travelling to Iraq through the UAE to source opportunities in the country, as well as offering services to the Iraqi community residing in the UAE.”
The flight schedule provides both morning and afternoon departures between Abu Dhabi and Basra and will provide seamless connectivity over Abu Dhabi for Etihad Airways flights from Europe to Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and Australia.
Etihad Airways has been operating services to the capital, Baghdad, since April 2010, and Erbil in the north since June 2010.
Last year Etihad Airways carried more than 100,000 passengers between Abu Dhabi and these two cities, with the Baghdad route enjoying particularly strong growth.
Etihad Airways launched cargo operations to Iraq in September 2009. Today, these operations are performing strongly and Etihad Cargo has increased frequency from two to three weekly services to Erbil.