After more than 20 years, Saudi Arabia will restore aviation links with Iraq - the first flight from Jeddah to Baghdad will be by the Kingdom's privately owned Alwafeer Air on Thursday.
Alwafeer Air will initially operate a weekly flight from Jeddah to Baghdad and two flights a week from Jeddah to Basra, said Saleh A. Bogary, the airline's marketing director.
Bogary said Alwafeer had been contracted by Saudi Arabian Airlines to operate flights to Iraq following an agreement endorsed by Saudi and Iraqi aviation authorities. "The first flight carrying some 450 passengers will leave King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) on July 15," he said.
"In fact, a test flight landed at Baghdad airport on Sunday ahead of the resumption of full-fledged commercial operations," said Bogary.
Flights between the two countries stopped after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which sparked the first Gulf War. The attack soured relations and led to the indefinite suspension of air links. Even after Saddam's ouster in 2004, relations remained frosty. The only flights that come to the Kingdom from Iraq at present carry pilgrims for the annual Haj.
Bogary said Alwafeer would have enough passenger load as it would fly Iraqi pilgrims as well as regular passengers.
The first flight to Basra would leave Jeddah on July 25. The airline will operate a Boeing 747, which can carry up to 450 passengers.
"Plans are also afoot to operate a flight to Sulaymaniyah, a governorate of Iraq, in the Kurdistan region," said Bogary.
(Source: Arab News)