By Aseel Kami
Boeing was to deliver planes in 2013 but Iraq hopes to receive some this year.
Iraq's Transport Ministry is looking to bring forward delivery of new aircraft from Boeing as it presses ahead with expanding the operations of national airline Iraqi Airways, the transport minister said.
Amer Abdul-Jabbar said Iraqi Airways currently owns just four ageing planes and depends mainly on leased aircraft, which are expensive, so the ministry is trying to get the first deliveries this year on an order for a fleet of 55 new Boeing 737s, 777s and 787s which were not due to arrive until 2013.
"I believe 55 new planes are good to meet the needs of Iraqi Airways till 2020, since we are expecting to be more open to the world," Abdul-Jabbar told Reuters in an interview this week.
He said Boeing had been expected to deliver in 2013 but the government is now hoping to receive some this year.
"They promised us to study our demand, taking into account other airline companies (needs), to see if they are ready to give us priority," Abdul-Jabbar said.
A year and a half ago Iraq had only six international routes, to Amman, Damascus, Beirut, Dubai, Tehran and Cairo. Since then it has gradually started to open up to other countries and now has routes to Turkey, Germany, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Pakistan.
Iraq has also signed an agreement to open a route to the UK in the near future, and a memo of understanding for routes into the United States.
Abdul-Jabbar said increasing the fleet means increasing flight crews and the airline now needs 200 new pilots.
The Boeing deal includes $30 million to train Iraqi pilots and the company also donated $7 million to build a pilot training institute in Baghdad, he said.
Iraq originally signed a $5.9 billion contract with Boeing and Canada's Bombardier in 2008 to buy at least 50 aircraft to rebuild a fleet that was almost totally destroyed in the 2003 war. (Reuters)