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04 October 2023

UAE airlines suspend flights to Erbil

By Reuters

UAE airlines Emirates, Flydubai and Etihad Airways have suspended flights to Erbil, the airlines said in separate statements on Sunday, citing security concerns as Daesh razes ancient cities in Iraq's north.

Budget carrier Flydubai, which was involved in a security incident in January when bullets hit one of its planes landing in Baghdad, temporarily suspended flights to Erbil and Sulaimaniyah due to "expanded military activity in the north of the country," it said in a statement to Reuters.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways told Reuters it had suspended flights to Erbil effective March 6 until further notice, due to the "deteriorating security situation in Iraq."

Emirates also suspended flights to Erbil from March 7 and deferred plans to resume flights to Baghdad, which it said last month would recommence on March 1 after the Flydubai incident.

"We hope to be able to resume services to Baghdad and Erbil as soon as operating conditions allow," Emirates said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

An Emirates spokesperson added: "We need to assess every part of the operation and at the moment, we are not ready to go back in."

Daesh militants destroyed ancient remains of the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra in northern Iraq, officials said on Saturday. The militants also looted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud last week.

The attacks have forced UAE airlines to examine their operations in Iraq for the second time this year.

After the Baghdad airport shooting, the General Civil Aviation Authority sent a flight-suspension directive to all UAE carriers flying to Baghdad.

Flydubai is still flying to Baghdad, the carrier confirmed, while Etihad's service to the Iraqi capital remain suspended.