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10 Facts About Iraqi Airways

Iraqi Airways B737-8

1. It is the second oldest airline in the Middle East

Founded in 1945, Iraqi Airways is the second oldest airline in the Middle East.

They commenced operations on January 28, 1946 using five De Havilland Dragon Rapides on a service to Syria, before expanding their services with the help of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC)

Lebanon-based Middle East Airlines was founded in 1945 and began operating flights on January 1, 1946. Making it the oldest airlines in the Middle East.

2. They once flew to the US

During the 1960s, when the jet age began, Iraqi Airways was quick to modernise their fleet by buying a mix of Russian built Tupolev TU-124 plans and British made Tridents. But it was the arrival of the Boeing 707 jets – and later the Boeing 747 – that Iraqi Airways flew to JFK International Airport in New York.

3. The have a hub in Kurdistan

Once an Iraqi military base, Erbil International Airport is the main airport in the city of Erbil, Iraq. What makes this particular airport so interesting is that though it is a government building, the region it resides within is part of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, also known as Iraqi Kurdistan or Southern Kurdistan.

Kurds make up an estimate 15 to 20% of Iraq’s population and have typically enjoyed more rights than those Kurds who live in neighbouring states. In 1946, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) began to fight for autonomy in Iraq. This continued to escalate over the coming decades.

Afer seeing the violent suppression by the Iraqi Government, and the Kurds fighting alongside them, the US and its allies imposed a no-fly zone in the north that allowed Kurds to self-rule. The Kurds continued to fight alongside the US during the Iraqi invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam.

Finally, in September 2017, after a referendum on independence the Kurdistan region was able to succeed from Iraq. The Iraqi government called the referendum illegal and there is still a dispute over the region and its borders.

Despite this, today Kurdistan is considered one of the safest places in Iraq, and tourism numbers continue to grow.

4. They ‘hid’ their fleet during the Kuwait Invasion

Iraqi Airways ‘hid’ their fleet of 17 aircraft in ‘secret locations’ during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The invasion of Kuwait was strongly opposed by the U.N., triggering severe sanctions on the country. To safeguard the aircraft from alliance airstrikes, a fleet of thirteen Boeing 707, 727, and 737 aircraft were sent by then-President Saddam Hussein to be parked at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan.

Due to economic sanctions, political disputes, and other factors that prevented the retrieval and maintenance of the aircraft, they remain parked in Jordan. Some were even held as compensation issues from other wars. Included in the thirteen aircraft sent to Amman was a 737-200 that was used by Saddam Hussein’s government to transport VIPs.

Most of these aircraft have since been declared unfit for service and scrapped in 2011.

There were also aircraft parked in the Tunis, Tunisia and Tehran, Iran.

5. They trialled a new blue livery

In 2008, Iraqi Airways introduced a new blue colour livery, replacing the existing green livery used during the Saddam-era.

This blue livery was applied to a single Bombardier CRJ, though subsequent models of the aircraft had the old green livery applied.

In 2012, Iraqi Airways launched a new green livery that was applied fleet wide.

6. They flew during war time

Despite the Iran-Iraq War being waged, the airline continued to operate the remaining fleet domestically within the country, such as the popular Basra to Baghdad route.

Iraqi Airways domestic flights were greatly hindered the by United States and the United Kingdom declaring No-Fly Zones over the country and then grounded by the United Nations in 1991 as a sanction for invading Kuwait.

Occasionally, they were allowed to operate flights for pilgrims to Muslim religious cities during the ’90s.

7. They are a dry airline

It’s no surprise that as a national carrier for the Islamic nation of Iraq, you won’t find alcohol served on any of their flights.

Some other dry airlines include Royal Brunei Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Kuwait Airways, Egypt Air, Iran Air, and Air Arabia.

8. The airline was almost dissolved in 2010

Iraq’s government threatened to dissolve the airline in 2010 to avoid asset claims by Kuwait after their national airline – Kuwait Airways- pursued court judgments against Iraqi Airways.

9. Today, they do fly internationally!

While the Iraqi Airways fleet is not a common sight at your local airport, their green livery can be spotted at many European, Middle Eastern, and Asian airports.

After a long period of exclusively flying domestically, on October 3, 2004, Iraqi Airways recommenced international operations. The flight between Baghdad and Amman continues to be one of their most popular routes.

Today, you’ll find Iraqi Airways aircraft at airports including London Gatwick, Manchester Airport, Dubai International, Istanbul Airport, and Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

10. Iraqi Airways are upgrading their fleet

In 2008, the Iraqi Government signed contracts with both Boeing and Bombardier to revitalise their fleet.

The two orders, totaling over US$2.5billion, included options for Boeing 737-800s, Boeing 787-800, and Bombardier CRJ-900ER. They later changed the Boeing 787 orders to Boeing 777.


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