Flights start May 4

Iraqi Airways to resume direct flights to Beijing in May

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Ministry of Transport has announced the resumption of direct flights between Baghdad and Beijing via Basra, starting May 4. The service, suspended since 2015 due to a lack of suitable aircraft, reflects the airline’s push for network expansion and improved services.

The initiative is billed as part of Transport Minister Razzaq Muhaibis Al-Saadawi’s plan to strengthen Iraqi Airways’ position and its offerings, the ministry said in a statement.

Flights will operate twice weekly, departing Baghdad and Basra on Saturdays and Tuesdays, and returning from Beijing on Sundays and Wednesdays. The airline is expected to operate the flights on Boeing 787 Dreamliners, two of which were delivered in the last year.

The route will cater to the growing presence of Chinese businesses and workers in Iraq. With bilateral trade exceeding $48 billion in 2022, dominated by Iraqi oil exports to China, the new flights aim to facilitate passenger and cargo movement.

China has become a key partner in Iraq’s reconstruction efforts. Projects include the construction of 1,000 schools by Chinese companies, the development of Baghdad’s Al-Nisour Square, and significant investment in Iraq’s oil industry.

Additionally, China Railway Company has expressed interest in the Baghdad Metro project, and Iraqi port officials discussed expansion plans for Basra’s Al-Faw port with Chinese counterparts in January.

The route’s announcement also coincides with Iraq’s aspirations to expand its airline industry. Iraqi Airways acquired its second Boeing 787 Dreamliner in September 2023, just months after the first plane’s delivery, reflecting plans for fleet modernization and the addition of new long-haul routes.

However, a recent report in The New York Times of a potential safety issue with the Dreamliner cast a shadow of uncertainty. A Boeing whistleblower raised concerns with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration regarding the assembly of some Dreamliner sections, potentially compromising their structural integrity. The FAA is currently investigating the claims.