Baghdad International Airport

Baghdad International Airport, originally Saddam International Airport, (IATA: BGW, ICAO: ORBI) (Arabic: مطار بغداد الدولي‎), BIAP is Iraq's largest airport, located in a suburb about 16 km (10 miles) west of downtown Baghdad in the Baghdad Governorate. It is the home base for Iraq's national airline, Iraqi Airways.

History
Pre-1991

Saddam International Airport was constructed with the assistance of French firms between 1979 and 1982 at a cost of over US$900 million. Then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein authorized the airport's construction and had it named after himself. As a result the airport's three-letter IATA code became SDA.

Designed to accommodate both civil and military operations, Baghdad International can handle up to 7.5 million passengers per year in aircraft of all sizes. The passenger terminal consists of three gate areas. These were originally named after the cities of the ancient empires that once existed in present-day Iraq: Babylon, Samarra, and Nineveh. They are now simply called A, B and C.

The airport also had its own VIP terminal, which had a luxuriously furnished and decorated lounge, conference room and bedroom. This terminal is a VIP terminal, to welcome foreign leaders and other people of significance.

Baghdad International Airport was once served by several international airlines.

1991-2003

Most of Baghdad's civil flights stopped in 1991, when the United Nations imposed restrictions on Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. Because of the no-fly zone imposed on Iraq by the United States and the United Kingdom, Iraqi Airways was only able to continue domestic flights for limited periods. Internationally, Baghdad was able to receive occasional charter flights carrying medicine, aid workers, and government officials. Royal Jordanian Airlines operated regular flights from Amman to Baghdad. The Royal Jordanian planes were allowed to refuel free of charge in Iraq. This made this route very lucrative for the airline. On 2003, the US-led forces then invaded Iraq and changed the airport's name to Baghdad International Airport as they were advancing into Baghdad, the Iraqi capital on April 3. The then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown from power on April 9 as the US-led forces captured the city. As a result, his name was dropped from the airport. The ICAO code for the airport consequently changed from ORBS to ORBI; the IATA code subsequently switched from SDA to BGW, which previously referred to all Baghdad airports and before that to Al Muthana Airport.

The most visible and notable building in this area was the Bob Hope Dining Facility, a large, white, fabric-skinned, elongated dome. President George W. Bush made a surprise visit to the Bob Hope on Thanksgiving Day, 27 November 2003 and had dinner with the servicemen present. The Bob Hope Dining Facility and the entire coalition installation on the eastern side of the airport terminal area was dismantled and the area abandoned prior to the 2004 turnover of the airport to the Iraqi people.

Terminal C, one of three gate areas, has been spruced up with new potted plants and polished floors. The duty-free shop has reopened as well. There are still renovations on-going throughout the airport to return it to its former self. Coordinates: 33°15′45″N 044°14′04″E / 33.2625°N 44.23444°E / 33.2625; 44.23444

Current air services status
2003

In 2003 and early 2004, three aircraft were hit by three insurgent surface-to-air heat seeking missiles. In the first, a DHL Airbus cargo plane was hit at 10,000', in what was later known as the DHL shootdown incident, landing minutes later with a wing in flames. Next, a C17 Globemaster was hit on a pre-dawn takeoff, but also landed safely. The landowning unit, 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery, was given twice the land and two additional companies after the first two strikes. A month later in 2004, a C5A Galaxy was struck in another pre-dawn strike. It landed safely, but this time Eagle Troop, 2nd Cavalry Regiment captured the assailants after a high speed chase that ended in southern Baghdad. Effective firing has since ceased, but still today, aircraft take palpable precautionary measures. Aircraft take off and land at the airport using a "corkscrew maneuver," a spiraling pattern of climbing and descending directly over the airport to avoid coming within range of small arms and missiles on the ground. The unusual and uncomfortable takeoff and landing procedures are still used despite the significantly improved security situation.

Currently Sabre International Security provides the ground and aviation security at the BIAP. The personnel consists of ex-pat nationals in key and supervisor roles and local nationals and a mixed Gurkha and Ugandan guard force.

Since July 2003, the civilian areas of the airport have been secured by civilian contractors. From July 2003 to June 2004, an American firm, Custer Battles, secured the airport under a contract from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). At the completion of their contract, coinciding with the dissolution of the CPA, the Iraq Ministry of Transportation awarded a contract to the British security firm Global RSL. The terminal area is currently secured by a private force of 500 Iraqi and Gurkha guards. The main road from the airport to downtown Baghdad, nicknamed "Route Irish", was infamous as one of the most dangerous routes in the world - today however there is a heavy military presence across the whole route all the way to the International (Green) Zone and attacks are rare.

Most airport workers now live in a secure area located near the airport, and within the ring of Coalition military bases that surround the airport. Security within the airport complex is typical of most international airports.

Royal Jordanian was the only civilian airline permitted to land in Iraq during 2003, it only had direct flights from Amman, Jordan.

2004

The airport officially reverted to civilian control on 25 August 2004. Iraqi Airways resumed regular flights to Amman, Jordan, and FedEx Express and DHL began civilian and military cargo services.

On 8 November 2004, as part of a general US and Iraqi assault against Fallujah, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi closed the airport for 48 hours with the stated reason of preventing insurgents from leaving the country.

There have been two 48 hour closures due to pay disputes between the British Contracting firm that provides security and the Iraqi Transportation Ministry.

The second time this occurred, Iraqi troops were sent in to fill the roles left behind and the Iraqi Government agreed to pay 50% of the bill. Other airport closures in 2006 and 2007 were part of general Baghdad-wide vehicle curfews intended to hinder mobility of insurgents. As the security situation improves, this extreme tool is used less frequently.

2005

Through 2005, some days saw no flights while most days were limited to one flight. The terminal appeared almost abandoned. Into 2008, there are now crowds of people, particularly on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, with long lines of passengers waiting to pass through security. Flights to Irbil, Tehran, Ankara, Basra, and other domestic or regional flights occur throughout the day. Typical weekdays include three flights to Irbil alone. Despite speculation by the media, both arriving and departing flights are typically full.

On 29 April 2005, Air Scotland announced its intentions to begin a Glasgow-London Stansted-Irbil-Baghdad service. Although initial intentions were to begin this route in November 2005 with Tristar jetliners, this service never started and Air Scotland is now defunct.

Euro Air Cargo of Czech Republic, plans to launch a service to Baghdad International Airport in the future. The airline is yet to launch operations of any sort.

2006

In December 2006, an Iraqi Airways affiliated travel agency in the UK announced a direct Baghdad to London route scheduled to start service twice weekly in early 2007. The website even lists prices and includes the ability to book tickets. At 2008, the plans failed to go ahead.

2008

In October 2008, Turkish Airlines launched nonstop service to Baghdad from Istanbul Atatürk International Airport with three weekly flights, thus becoming the first airline to resume service from Europe to the Iraqi capital since UN sanctions were imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Due to a reduction in violence in 2008, passenger traffic at BIAP increased dramatically.

2009
  • On 2 January 2009, the Swedish-based airline Nordic Airways operated the first flight between Western Europe and Baghdad in 17 years when a flight carrying about 150 passengers ran between Copenhagen and Baghdad. The airline has since suspended operations.
  • In June 2009, Iraqi Airways revealed that they have been given the go ahead to resume direct Baghdad-Karachi flights.
  • In July 2009, Gulf Air revealed that they are planning on launching flights to Baghdad from Bahrain International Airport.
  • On 28 August 2009, Bahrain Air launch Baghdad flights.
  • On 1 September 2009, Etihad Crystal Cargo and Gulf Air launch Baghdad flights.
  • On 3 September 2009, Iraqi Airways resumed Bahrain after 20 years.
  • On 11 September 2009, Iraqi Airways resumed Doha, Qatar after 18 years.
  • On 9 October 2009, Middle East Airlines announced Beirut from Baghdad. Flights will operate 4x weekly from 29 October but may upgrade to daily. They will use Airbus A320 aircraft for the flights.
  • In October 2009, Iraqi Airways resumed Karachi, Pakistan after 19 years.
  • On 12 November 2009, Blue Wings began providing regular service to Frankfurt, Germany on behalf of Iraqi Airways. Blue Wings has since gone bust, flights are now operated by leased Boeing 737 aircraft.
2010
  • On 17 April 2010, Etihad Airways announced they will launch passenger flights to Baghdad from Abu Dhabi from 26 April.
  • In April 2010, it was announced that Iraqi Airways would resume flights to London but instead to Gatwick Airport via Malmö, Sweden. The flights were due to launch on the 17 April but due to the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull and closure of Northern European airspace, the airline had to cancel the inaugural flight. The airline launched flights to London on 25 April 2010.
  • Emirates had confirmed that it would launch flights to Baghdad on 1 July 2010. Initially, Emirates will have operated a thrice weekly service on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The route would have been served by an Airbus A330-200. However, Emirates announced that it will postpone flights to Baghdad until later in the year due to "operational reasons".
  • In May 2010, Iraqi Airways was forced to suspend all operations to both the United Kingdom and Sweden due to ongoing legal issues with Kuwait. The last flight from London will be on the 28 May. Following the Kuwaiti issue and the problems for Iraqi to expand, Iraqi declared bankruptcy on 26 May and ceased all flights the same day.
  • In May 2010, German carrier Lufthansa announced that it will resume flights to Baghdad from Munich beginning 30 September 2010. The flights were to be operated by a Privatair Boeing 737. However, the airline decided to cancel the flights indefinitely due to the lack of customer interest.
  • On 1 July 2010, Austrian Airlines announced that they will be resuming flights to Baghdad beginning in winter 2010. The flight will operate 5 times a week beginning on 31 October. The flights will be operated by an Airbus A320. In September 2010, Austrian Airlines canceled its intentions to serve Baghdad, citing poor demand. The flights will resume on March 27, on the same format of five times a week, however with Boeing 737's. This relaunch seems to be the beginning of a long term reinvestment of Star Alliance airlines in Iraq. LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Egyptair, SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Swiss International Airlines have already expressed their interest in relaunching flights to Baghdad, and for Star Alliance airlines to take advantage of their early presence at Ebril, in the near future.
2011
  • On 25 April 2011, Austrian Airlines announced they will re-launch thrice-weekly Vienna-Baghdad service starting 8 June 2011. This marks a return from a nearly 21-year hiatus that started in 1991.
  • In June 2011, EgyptAir announced the launch of flights connecting Cairo International Airport to Baghdad from 27 August 2011. The airline previously served the city in the early 1990s. Flights will be operated with Airbus A320 aircraft.
  • On 8 June 2011, Austrian Airlines resumed Vienna, Austria after 21 years.
  • In June 2011, Emirates again announced the launch of flights connecting Dubai International Airport to Baghdad from 13 November 2011.
Expansion Plans

On 18 May 2010, plans were unveiled for an expansion of Baghdad International Airport, which will double its capacity to 15 million passengers per year. The expansion, to be funded by foreign investors, will include the construction of three new terminals and the refurbishment of the existing three terminals, which will each accommodate 2.5 million passengers annually.

Airlines and destinations
Cargo airlines
Ground Operations

Following the American control and since 2002, SkyLink Arabia has been providing ground operations and fuel supply at the airport.

Coalition installations

The following is a list of installations within the Victory Base Complex:

  • Camp Cropper
  • Camp Dublin
  • Camp Liberty
  • Sather Air Base
  • Camp Slayer
  • Camp Striker
  • Camp Victory
  • Logistics Base Seitz
Incidents and accidents
  • On 25 December 1986, Iraqi Airways Flight 163, a Boeing 737-200, flying from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, was hijacked and damaged by a bomb in flight. The bomb exploded in the cockpit causing the plane to crash in Saudi Arabia, killing 63 of 106 onboard.
  • On 29 November 1987, Korean Air Flight 858, a Boeing 707-3B5C, was destroyed by a bomb over the Andaman Sea, the bomb was left by two North Korean agents who boarded in Baghdad but got off in Abu Dhabi. The plane was flying the Baghdad-Abu Dhabi-Bangkok-Seoul flight. All 104 passengers and 11 crew died.
  • On 22 November 2003, a European Air Transport Airbus A300B4 freighter, registered OO-DLL, operating on behalf of DHL Aviation, was hit by an SA-7 'Grail' missile shortly after take-off. The airplane lost hydraulic pressure and thus the controls. After extending the landing gear to create more drag, the crew piloted the plane using differences in engine thrust and landed the plane with minimal further damage. All 3 crew survived.