ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish company Freebird Airlines will start operating chartered flights from the Netherlands to the Kurdistan Region’s cities of Erbil and Sulaimani, reported Eindhoven News on Tuesday.
The flights from Eindhoven Airport are scheduled to depart once a week from April to October. It is not clear for which party the charters will be executed.
Freebird is not entirely new to Eindhoven Airport, having operated flights to Turkey in 2000. The company has a fleet of seven Airbuses and carries a million passengers annually to 170 destinations in 26 countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Baghdad imposed a flight embargo that lasted for months on both airports in the Kurdistan Region on Sep. 29, 2017, days after the historic Kurdish independence referendum which saw an overwhelming majority favoring statehood.
The move had a drastic effect on the autonomous region’s economy, forcing many foreign and local companies to close their offices and shut down operations, with hundreds losing jobs.
In January, commercial flights from the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani International Airport to Turkey resumed after more than a year of an additional embargo by Ankara.
After Baghdad lifted its ban on all air traffic to or from the Kurdistan Region, Turkey agreed to resume its flights only to Erbil, based on allegations that both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Gorran (Change) Movement – the dominant two parties in the province of Sulaimani – had been providing support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Sulaimani’s security forces (Asayish) – which the PUK has significant authority over – continued a months-long crackdown on a local party with apparent links to the PKK. That, along with several parallel diplomatic efforts by the PUK, is seen as an important factor in Turkey’s lifting of its flight ban on the city.
Editing by John J. Catherine