ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Saudi Arabian airlines on Saturday announced they would launch direct flights to the Kurdistan Region’s capital at the beginning of October with aims to “strengthen ties” between the Kingdom and Iraq.
“Saudia Airlines has completed all preparations to become operational and schedule flights within its international network, making them available for booking,” Okaz quoted the company’s Director-General, Saleh al-Jasser, as saying.
He added that they would be “providing the [ticketing platforms] at Erbil International Airport with all the requirements to operate and serve guests.”
The company, on its official Twitter account, said it would run three flights a week from the Saudi city of Jeddah to Erbil.
According to Jasser, the company flies to more than 90 destinations worldwide, with a fleet of 154 modern aircraft.
Jasser stated that “commencing direct flights to Erbil will contribute to strengthening relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and provide investment and tourism opportunities.”
The semi-autonomous Kurdish region issues its own visas and residency cards, different from the one provided to foreigners applying through Iraqi embassies. The current Kurdish visa, however, does not allow foreigners to travel to other parts of Iraq beyond the KRG’s administrated areas.
Tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region must obtain visas before traveling. However, nationals from a number of countries can receive visas on arrival.
The decision comes just two months after a Saudi Arabian high-level business delegation and a group of diplomats reached an agreement with the region’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, to turn the Kurdistan Region into a hub of commercial activity in Iraq, taking advantage of the area’s security, stability, and the investment-friendly environment.
In March, the first international flight from the Kurdistan Region following a five-month-long ban by Baghdad was made to Saudi Arabia by the Kingdom’s Flynas airline, carrying Kurdish pilgrims for Umrah.
Editing by Nadia Riva