Iraqi Airways On A Growth Path, Orders IFE Systems For New Fleet
DUBAI—Iraqi Airways has selected Panasonic Avionics to provide in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) systems for the carrier’s new fleet of 31 aircraft.
The deal, announced Nov. 14 at the Dubai Airshow, covers in-line installation of Panasonic’s X-series IFE system on the five Airbus A220s, 16 Boeing 737 MAXs and 10 Boeing 787s that Iraqi Airways has on order. USB and laptop charging power points will also be fitted for every seat.
Although the European Union banned Iraqi airliners flying into the bloc last year, Iraqi Airways is optimistic that it will see large growth in demand from other markets.
Speaking to ATW on the sidelines of the Arab Air Carriers’ Association (AACO) AGM in Doha days before the Dubai Airshow, Iraqi Airways CEO adviser Shabbir Ali Dharsi said the first A220 has been delivered and a second was expected later in November. He said the first 787 was expected to arrive in February or March 2022.
The airline has 10 787-8s on order, but Dharsi said the airline is looking to convert a few of those to the larger -9.
The carrier is phasing out many of its older aircraft, including two Boeing 767s and some Bombardier CRJ900s. The new fleet will take Iraqi Airways from a small to medium-size airline, Dharsi said.
As safety in Baghdad has improved and people are starting to travel again, a major challenge is finding sufficient employees with aviation experience, he said.
Nevertheless, the airline expects to transport almost 2 million people this year, with 40% traveling on domestic routes and 70% of travelers on religious missions, such as visiting the holy Iraq city of Najaf.
Iraqi Airways flies to India, China and the Gulf region and operates to six destinations in Turkey. In the coming winter schedule, the airline plans to add seven or eight destinations that could include cities in Pakistan and Africa, Dharsi said.
“There is a huge potential market among the 10 to 15 million refugees from Iraq who settled in Europe or America,” he said. “There are second-generation Iraqis all over the world, with 60,000 to 70,000 in Canada and more than 100,000 in the U.S.”
Dharsi said much of the work to complete a safety audit for the EU has been done. If that ban is lifted, Iraqi Airways could potentially double its number of European destinations from five to 10.