By Paul Mwaura
| Nairobi, Kenya
Emirates airlines has marked its 110th international destination today with its inaugural flight to Basra, the airline's first service into Iraq.
Announcing the launch of the new destination Emirates Regional Manager for East Africa Essa SulaimanAhmadnoted that the demand for flights to Iraq was growing amid signs of an economic recovery in that country.
He said: “As foreign firms set up operations in the country there is a high proportion of traffic heading both in and out of Iraq, especially Basra, and we are in the right position to capitalize on this demand. Numerous diplomatic and commercial representations, organizations and foreign companies have been set up in Iraq. We believe the introduction of the new flights to Basra will offer convenient connection to Kenyans working with these organizations or those with some sort of business interests in Iraq.”
He continued: “Our convenient flight times and good connections make Emirates an excellent choice for corporate travellers to Basra. It has been a strong year of growth for Emirates and this announcement is further proof of our robust expansion plans.”
Emirates is the largest international carrier to operate services into Iraq, helping link the country to the rest of the world through its convenient connections in Dubai.
“Our strong forward bookings for Basra indicate the high demand for services to this destination, particularly from the corporate sector as the city rebuilds. Iraq is a key destination for Emirates and we expect our operations to Basra to thrive alongside the city’s growth,” added Mr. Ahmad.
Basra is the first new destination for Emirates in 2011 with Geneva to launch on 1st June, followed by Copenhagen on 1st August.
Emirates will operate both passenger and cargo services to and from Basra with an estimated 130 tonnes of freight per week between Dubai and Basra.
In addition to transporting equipment for oil and petroleum companies Emirates expects to carry a diverse range of goods from all corners of the globe, including perishable foodstuffs, medical products, car parts, garments, textiles and various electronic items such as mobile phones. Goods travelling in the other direction – to the likes of the United States, USA, China, India and the UK - will include petroleum products, grains, wool and dates.
The service will operate four times a week each Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, subject to approval by the Iraqi Government. The flight will be operated by an Airbus A330, in a three class configuration, First Class, Business Class and Economy Class on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and in a two class configuration, Business Class and Economy Class, on Mondays. Emirates also expects to uplift around 10-12 tonnes of cargo per flight, using the belly hold capacity on the wide-bodied passenger aircraft.
“As the city is re-established Emirates will be importing a range of commodities that will facilitate the city’s redevelopment. Key imports will range from perishable foodstuffs and garments to electronics and oil well equipment – from all corners of the world,” Mr. Ahmad said.
With a flight time of just one hour from Dubai EK 945 departs Dubai at 13:45 hours and touch down at Basra International Airport at 14:45 hours. At 16:15 hours, return flight EK 946 will depart Basra touching down in Dubai at 19:10 hours. The service connects seamlessly with key industry hubs in the US and Europe.