Kurds to Get West-European Flights as FlyErbil Plans May Debut

  • Services to Germany, Sweden high on agenda, CEO says
  • Routes to be operated by leased Airbus A321 jetliners

Iraqi Kurdistan, the autonomous region that’s been pressing for independence, is poised to get direct flights to Western Europe as startup carrier FlyErbil finalizes network plans for the start of operations in May.

The airline, named after its home base of Erbil, the regional capital, plans to serve countries including Germany, Chief Executive Officer Lawand Mamondy said in an interview -- securing links that have been intermittent at best since the toppling of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003.

FlyErbil, funded by local investors, is also evaluating flights to Sweden and Greece using an initial fleet of two leased Airbus Group SE A321 jets that could operate 20 services a week, Mamondy said in Erbil.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Austrian Airlines unit provides the only existing flights from Erbil to Europe the heart of Europe, serving Vienna. Earlier Kurdish startup ZagrosJet and Turkish carriers Atlasglobal and Pegasus Airlines connect the regional center with Istanbul.

While the conflict between Iraqi forces and Islamic State has prompted foreign operators such as Lufthansa’s namesake unit to halt flights to Erbil, which the German carrier served for the first time for two decades in 2010, the war has encouraged separatism and a desire for homegrown institutions, including a flag-carrier airline.

FlyErbil has $5 million in startup capital and also aims to serve nearby countries including the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon, Mamondy said. The company is awaiting an Iraqi air operating certificate and is also seeking one in Europe as a fall-back should it fail to source one locally in good time.

The carrier also plans to code-share with Baghdad-based Iraqi Airways on flights to Europe.

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