Arbil: Emirates Airlines on Monday commenced its new non-stop service between Dubai and Arbil city in Iraq, making it the 11th destination launched by the airline this year and the third gateway in Iraq after Baghdad and Basra.
Speaking to Gulf News, Andrew Jones, commercial development advisor for the Arbil International Airport, said that today marks an exciting day for the fast-growing airport.
“Emirates Airlines’ supreme focus on quality customer service helps us raise our own standards,” he said. Travelling aboard the inaugural flight, which follows the operational start of services on August 12, were Shaikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ senior vice president, commercial operations, Gulf, Middle East & Iran, Hiran Perera, Emirates’ senior vice president, cargo planning and freighters, Abdullah Ebrahim Al Shehi, UAE Ambassador to Iraq, Esmat Seddiqi, Iraq’s Ambassador to the UAE, other government officials, prominent members of the business community and representatives from the media.
Arbil is said to be the world’s oldest continually inhabited settlement, established, some believe, almost 6,000 years ago. Aided in recent years by the construction of Arbil International Airport, the city of around 1.3 million people is fast becoming a flourishing business and tourist hub.
“Arbil’s free trade zone, similar to the Dubai model, is attracting foreign investment with opportunities across numerous sectors, including construction, property development, oil and gas,” Shaikh Majid said. “This is a good time for us to enter this market and once again Emirates will be a catalyst for trade and tourism.”
One of Arbil’s most notable attractions is the mysterious Citadel or Qala’t Arbil, containing a collection of bazaars, an ancient bathhouse and a labyrinth of narrow alleyways. Other sites of interest include the Bradost Mountains, the Sami Abdul Rahaman Park and the Shar Garden Square with its cooling fountains, trendy cafes and charming teashops.
Emirates SkyCargo, the air freight division of Emirates, has been operating freighters out of Arbil since February 2011. With the demand for transporting machinery and parts for the oil and gas industry, the airline operates three weekly B777F freighter services, each with a capacity of 103 tonnes. Combined with the 13 tonnes of belly-hold capacity on each passenger flight, the overall weekly cargo capacity rises to over 400 tonnes.
Passengers in all cabin classes aboard the A340-300 can expect gourmet-chef prepared cuisine, served by multi-national cabin crew donning one of the world’s most iconic airline uniforms.
EK949 departs each Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from Dubai International Airport at 06.45hrs, arriving in Arbil at 08.45 hrs. The return flight, EK950, departs Arbil at 10.10hrs and lands in Dubai at 13.50 hrs. Emirates currently operates a daily flight to Baghdad and four weekly flights to Basra.
Aside from Arbil, Emirates has launched flights to a host of exciting new destinations this year: Dublin, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Dallas Fort Worth, Seattle, Lusaka, Harare, Ho Chi Minh City, Barcelona, Lisbon and Washington DC. Adelaide, Lyon, Phuket, Warsaw and Algiers will also join the Emirates’ network in the coming months.