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Major airline resumes Baghdad flights

/ Source: The Associated Press

Austrian Airlines resumed flights to Baghdad on Wednesday after a 21-year absence, becoming the first major western carrier with regular flights to the Iraqi capital.

An Austrian Airlines plane touched down Wednesday afternoon at Baghdad International Airport, dropping off passengers from Vienna and picking up passengers going to Austria on the return flight.

The decision by the Vienna-based airline to resume Baghdad flights should help Iraq lure international investors. A number of western carriers have expressed interest in starting up a Baghdad route but none have yet to do so.

The airline will operate three flights a week, said Kurt Reimann, its Iraq general manager. A round-trip ticket will cost $1,199, he said.

Austrian Airlines began flying to Baghdad in 1982 but stopped in 1990 due to the first Gulf War.
The airline already flies to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil six times a week. Irbil is much safer than the capital, which has struggled to attract international investors to anything except the surest economic bets.

Iraqi Airways chief Kifah Jabar Hassan said Iraq had been working hard to convince European airlines to resume flights to Baghdad.

Many regional carriers fly to the Iraqi capital, including Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Turkish Airlines. But there had been no direct passenger flights between Baghdad and Western Europe.

Stockholm-based Nordic Airways launched commercial flights to Baghdad from Copenhagen, Denmark, in January 2009 but its operating license was revoked later that month.

German airliner Deutsche Lufthansa AG last year postponed the scheduled startup of a Munich-to-Baghdad route, citing a lack of customer interest.

Lufthansa has resumed flights to Irbil.

France's Aigle Azur flew to Baghdad last fall on an inaugural flight carrying French officials. The ceremonial flight was supposed to be followed by regularly-scheduled flights this year but those never materialized.