First Baghdad-London flight in 20 years departs after delay
The first commercial flight between Baghdad and London in 20 years took off on Sunday nine days after a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland delayed its departure, Iraq's civil aviation director said.
"A Boeing 737-400 Iraqi Airways flight left at 3:00 pm (1200 GMT) for the first time in 20 years from Baghdad to London via Malmo (in Sweden)," Adnan Blebil told AFP.
"I am happy. But if Western companies had been more cooperative, we could have started (flights to the West) several years earlier."
There were 30 foreign and Iraqi passengers on board the flight, including Transport Minister Amer Abduljabbar Ismail and Iraqi Airways chief Kifah Hassan.
"There will be two flights a week now. They will fly via Malmo on the way out but the return flight will be direct," Blebil said.
The first flight since sanctions imposed by the UN after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait came into effect had been scheduled to depart on April 16.
But Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano erupted two days earlier, spewing out ash that forced air traffic authorities to cancel thousands of flights across Europe.
Much of Europe's airspace only reopened last week.
© 2010 AFP