The first new Boeing jetliner sold to Iraq in 30 years touched down in Baghdad on Saturday, signalling the country’s determination to rebuild its economy after decades of war and sanctions. Iraq is eager to improve its creaky aviation industry, which lags far behind that of its energy-rich neighbours.
Boeing’s delivery of the twin-aisle 777-200LR plane comes less than two weeks after its chief rival Airbus announced the delivery of one of its wide-body planes to Iraq. “The arrival of the plane represents a big chance for Iraqi Airways to turn around,” Transportation Minister Hadi Al Amiri said.
More planes are coming. Iraq has ordered another 30 of Boeing’s smaller 737-800 model and 10 new 787. The first of the 737s will be delivered in the middle of next year, according to the Chicago-based plane maker. Airbus, its chief competitor, earlier said it had delivered its first A330-200 to Iraq. Iraqi Airways, which plans to use it on European and other international routes, operates two Airbus A321s.
Boeing last sold Iraq a commercial plane, a version of the 747 jumbo jet, in 1982, said Donald Galvanin, the company’s sales director for the Middle East. He said this weekend’s delivery is an important step towards improving the economy. “To bring in business, you need a connection with outside … and a viable airline,” he said.
Iraq was able to get the 777 delivered now because another customer was unable to take it, he said and expected Baghdad may be interested in buying more long-range jets because “it realises it would need a few more.”
The U.S. Embassy said it worked with Boeing and Iraq to complete the 777 sale.
Iraqi Airways’ efforts to turn itself around have been hobbled by aging equipment, a lack of adequately trained staff and a long-running dispute with Kuwait stemming from Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1990. The disagreement centered on Kuwait’s accusations that Saddam’s regime stole 10 planes and millions of dollars worth of equipment and spare parts. Kuwait earlier wanted $1.2 billion in reparations Iraq’s postwar leaders have resisted paying.
Iraq and Kuwait have reached a $500 million deal to settle the feud, paving the way for Iraqi Airways to resume operations. The dispute scuttled at least one planned Iraqi Airways route between Baghdad and London after Kuwait attempted to confiscate the Iraqi plane in the British capital.
By the Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)