Lufthansa has become the first major European carrier in 20 years to launch a service to Baghdad.
The German carrier said it was planning to fly to the Iraqi capital and Erbil in the north from Frankfurt and Munich this summer due to high demand and security issues within the country easing.
Boris Ogursky, a spokesman at Lufthansa’s main hub in Frankfurt, said: “The demand goes in both directions.”
He also confirmed a start date of mid-2010 but added that it’s too early to specify a number of flights.
Lufthansa first started flying to Baghdad in 1956 but halted operation in 1990 because of the Gulf War, when U.S.-led forces reversed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq has struggled to exploit its vast crude oil reserves due to civil war.
But, with security apparently improving, the Iraqi government now hopes to triple oil output from 2.4 million barrels a day to 7 million over the next six years, and has awarded oil-exploitation rights to a string of foreign companies in recent months.
Royal Dutch Shell, China National Petroleum Corp., OAO Lukoil and Statoil ASA were among bidders that won seven oil-project service contracts last month.
Lufthansa’s application for the routes is being considered under terms of an initial aviation agreement reached with Iraq’s government in October, a German Transport Ministry spokesman said.
“Both sides have stressed that they wish to resume traditionally friendly air-traffic relations between the two countries,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile German low-cost carrier Air Berlin has published an online flight schedules to both Erbil and Sulimaniyah from four German cities in anticipation of starting services as early as next month. The carrier is entering the market because of interest from an Iraq-based charter customer, according to a spokeswoman for Air Berlin.
Vienna-based Austrian Airlines, which Lufthansa took over last year, started flights to Erbil in late 2006 and resumed services in April 2008 following a mid-2007 suspension because of security concerns.
Lufthansa owned BMI said last April that it was interested in offering London- Baghdad flights.