In 2011, 621,870 passengers used Erbil's new International Airport, a 37% increase on the previous year, whilst cargo tonnage also increased dramatically, with a 67% increase to 17,769 tonnes per annum.
The increase in passenger and cargo numbers will help cement Erbil International Airport as one of the fastest growing in the Middle East and underlines the wisdom of the KRG's fifth cabinet and its then Prime Minister, Nichevan Barzani's decision to commission the new airport in 2004.
With an average of 11 flights a day, and around 38 cargo flights a month the airport is set to grow further in 2012 but does not anticipate that the level of increase will be as strong, reflecting the onset of a period of consolidation for EIA and the fact that levels of air travel around the world have, and continue to be, affected by economic woes.
The +37% increase in passenger numbers to 621,870 puts EIA, four years, and 45% ahead of its own master plan. The independently produced plan has predicted 430,000 passengers in 2011.
The most popular routes remain Istanbul and Baghdad, with Turkish and Atlas leading the way on routes to the north, whilst Iraqi Airways continues to operate the most flights into Erbil with an average of around 95 a month. New routes in 2011 have included Turkish Airways to Istanbul, and Pegasus to Ankara, Eygpt Air to Cairo and Air Cyprus to Larnaca. Etihad increased its frequency from x2 to x 4 per week.
Commenting on the record growth, Airport Director Talar Faiq said:
"In March ahead of the official opening I told the media we anticipated around 600,000 passengers this year, that we have exceeded that total, and processed more than 621,000 passengers is welcome news and a great endorsement of the airport in its first official year of operation.
"The growth in passenger numbers reflects not only the confidence the airlines have placed in operations at EIA but also the hard work of all the agencies involved - immigration, customs, security at EIA's own team. It is also a direct reflection on what is happening in Kurdistan - the growing economy, the security and stability overseen by the KRG, and the growing reputation of Kurdistan as a place to visit and do business.