Iraq places $5.5bn Boeing order


Iraq said on Monday it has signed a contract worth $5.5 billion (Dh20.2bn) with Boeing to buy 40 new aircraft, with an option to purchase 15 more.


Baghdad had also signed a $44 million-contract with Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier to purchase 10 passenger planes, government spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said in a statement.


He said delivery of the aircraft would start this year, with final delivery expected by the end of 2019.


The Boeing contract was for the 737 and 787 ‘Dreamliner’ planes, the statement said, without giving a breakdown of the numbers of each.


Dabbagh said the deals "will strengthen the Iraqi civil aviation capacity and enable it to respond to the increasing demand for air transportation to and from Iraq."


The portal to the Iraqi Airways Website said the airline is "hoping to start flying European routes in the coming months."


Iraqi Airways, one of the oldest airlines in the Middle East, currently owns just two aircraft and leases others.


Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 sparked UN economic sanctions which grounded the airline.


It flew its 17 jets out of the country, mainly to Jordan where six airliners can be seen parked at one end of Amman's Queen Alia Airport.


Other aircraft have been grounded in Tunisia and Iran.


The national carrier resumed international flights in September 2004 with a Baghdad-Amman service. It now operates also to Cairo, Damascus, Beirut and Dubai.


It also operates three domestic routes from Baghdad – to Arbil and Sulaimaniyah in the autonomous northern Kurdish region, and to Basra in the south.


An Iraqi Airways plane with then PM Ibrahim Jaafari on board made a symbolic first flight in more than a decade to London in June 2005.


The flight at the time was touted as the "longest flight since 1990."


In October 2005, an Iraqi Airways plane made its first regular flight from Baghdad to Beirut.


On the eve of the invasion of Kuwait, the company paid European giant Airbus $10million for four planes, shipments that never arrived when sanctions stalled the deal.


The carrier's ailing fleet of grounded planes includes Boeing 727s and 707s.


Jordan regards the aircraft in Amman as part of millions of dollars of Iraqi assets frozen in the kingdom.


Despite the UN travel ban, ousted dictator Saddam Hussein repeatedly defied the sanctions and allowed pilgrims to fly to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on their way to the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)