Emirates to start Iraq flights with Basra in Feb

DUBAI Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:16am EST

Emirates cabin crew board wait to board an Emirates Airbus A380-800 at Manchester Airport in Manchester, northern England, September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS TRAVEL)

Emirates cabin crew board wait to board an Emirates Airbus A380-800 at Manchester Airport in Manchester, northern England, September 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS TRAVEL)

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai carrier Emirates, the largest Arab airline, said on Monday it will launch flights to Iraq's city of Basra starting February 2 to tap growing demand for the destination.

Basra will be Emirates' first Iraq route after the airline postponed the launch of flights to Baghdad earlier this year citing "operational reasons".

"The city's recent growth has paved the way for numerous multinational companies and industries to invest in infrastructure and we have seen strong potential from a number of our markets," Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said in a statement.

"Since the 2009 oilfield bid, traffic from the U.S. and Europe into Basra has increased significantly and we are ready to capitalise on this growth," he added.

Iraq's Shi'ite south, where Basra is located, has been relatively peaceful in recent months in comparison to Baghdad and the north where devastating assaults and bombings by Sunni Islamist insurgents remain common.

Emirates expects its outbound traffic from Basra to be skewed towards local Iraqis, who are expected to travel more as the economy recovers.

The airline expects to handle around 10-12 tonnes of cargo per flight.

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