By Staff writer
Flights to be suspended at the request of the Baghdad authorities
Flydubai will suspend its Erbil flights from Saturday, in line other airlines in the region who have halted operations to and from the Kurdistan region at the request of the Baghdad authorities.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose government strongly opposed the referendum, had threatened on Tuesday to order a halt to all flights serving airports in Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the independence vote.
Flydubai said it will suspend its flights from this weekend following a ‘notice to airmen’ (NOTAM) received from Baghdad.
“On receipt of the NOTAM issued by the Iraqi authorities, flydubai has temporarily suspended its flights to Erbil from [Saturday] September 30,” a flydubai spokesperson said.
Turkish carriers Turkish Airlines, Atlas and Pegasus, which offer frequent connections for Iraqi Kurdistan, will halt their flights from Friday, the Turkish consulate in Erbil said.
Lebanon's Middle East Airlines said it would also stop flights to and from Erbil from Friday while EgyptAir announced its flights would also halt that day "until further notice."
"The work has started in order to increase the capacity of the flights" to and from Erbil until Friday, the Turkish consulate in Erbil said in a statement, urging citizens to consider the "circumstances" in their travel planning.
More than 92 percent of Iraq's Kurds voted "Yes" for independence in the referendum, according to the first official results announced on Wednesday, two days after the disputed plebiscite.
Abadi had said he would ban "international flights to and from Kurdistan" from Friday unless the airports in Erbil and the city of Sulaimaniyah were placed under the control of the federal government in Baghdad.
The transport minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mawloud Bawah Murad, expressed bafflement at the move by Baghdad.
"Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports were built from the budget of the Kurdistan government," he told a press conference in Erbil.
"We want more clarifications from the Iraqi government on its demand to hand them the two airports, because we don't understand how to give them the two airports, when they are already subject to the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority."