ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Following years of delay due to the Islamic State (IS) war in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region’s first airline, Fly Erbil, took flight on Monday with a trip to Sweden.
During a press conference at the Erbil International Airport, Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi praised the “momentous” occasion and congratulated the airline’s staff.
“We are very happy with this occasion and the start of this airline’s first flight. This airline is a momentous moment for all of the people of Kurdistan, and will serve the people of the Kurdistan Region,” he stated.
Hadi also highlighted the role the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) played in paving the way for businesses to come into the region and develop such a project.
“This project is a sign of the Kurdistan Region’s success and the KRG’s desire to move the Region forward,” he said.
Fly Erbil’s chief executive Laund Sheikh Mamundi said the airline had suffered a three-year delay due to IS’ mid-2014 emergence in Iraq and neighboring Syria where they overran large swaths of territory and committed some of the most heinous crimes in history.
The airline’s administrative director Ahmad Jamal told AFP Fly Erbil currently has three planes but plans to increase the number to 10 in the future.
“The company advertises flights to five European countries including Germany and the United Kingdom, targeting destinations with large communities and investors who operate in Iraq,” Jamal said.
Before IS’ emergence, the Kurdistan Region’s economy was on the rise as foreign investors and companies were interested in doing business in the region.
However, the IS war as well as disputes with the central government in Baghdad over oil sales crippled the Region’s economy and led to a financial crisis.
Additionally, in response to the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum last September, Baghdad imposed a set of collective punitive measures against Erbil including an international flight ban and border closures.
Since then, relations between the two sides have improved, and officials at Fly Erbil hope Monday’s launch is a sign of brighter days for the future of the semi-autonomous region.