, BAGHDAD, June 8 – An Austrian Airlines flight was expected in Baghdad on Wednesday, marking the reopening of an air route that was closed 21 years ago.
AUA, which has been flying to Erbil in northern Iraq since 2006, expects to fly three times a week to the Iraqi capital from Vienna, the first non-charter airline to begin regular direct flights to and from Europe. The airline is a subsidiary of German flag carrier Lufthansa,
"This first flight between Baghdad and Vienna will facilitate the arrival in Iraq of investors and businessmen," said a statement on Tuesday by the Iraqi transport ministry.
"Austrian Airlines is returning to the Iraqi capital after 21 years. This will be Austrian’s second destination in Iraq, together with the city of Erbil," the airline said on its website, adding that Airbus A320 aircraft would be used.
It said its flights were discontinued after Iraq\’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which brought war and sanctions on Iraq.
Wednesday\’s inaugural flight was due to land at Baghdad International Airport at 3 p.m. (1200 GMT), airport officials said.
Several European airlines have expressed an interest in flying to Iraq, where security has improved despite continuing bomb and gun attacks, and where foreign businessmen are keen for business opportunities.
Lufthansa had planned to begin flights to Baghdad in September, but postponed the project indefinitely due to lack of sufficient demand.
At the end of October, the privately-owned French carrier Aigle Azur launched the first direct service by a European airline to Baghdad since an international embargo in 1990.
But Aigle Azur said in January it would postpone the start of the service between Paris and Baghdad for security reasons.
Baghdad is currently served by a limited number of international carriers, most of them from the Middle East.