Some questioned if the airline would ever get them, but Iraqi Airways has taken delivery of its first Airbus A220-300 on January 6. It is the first new aircraft joining the fleet since the fourteenth and final brand-new Boeing 737-800 in August 2017 and confirms Iraqi’s intentions to renew the fleet. Iraqi Airways builds its future with first A220.
The airline, of which history goes back 76 years to January 1946, has seen troubled years with countless international and civil wars, the end of Saddam Husayn and the emergence of IS, a broken fleet, huge financial difficulties, and ending up on the EU black list of unsafe carriers. But despite the setbacks, Iraqi Airways tried rebuilding its fleet and network.
In April 2008, it placed an order with Boeing for thirty 737-800s, of which fourteen were delivered between July 2013 and August 2017. By 2012-2013, it received its first of two used Airbus A320ceo’s and two A321ceo’s, its only A330-200 and one 777-200LR. They complemented the used 767-300 that arrived in 2010 and the two 747-400s, which joined in 2010 and 2013, plus six Bombardier CRJ-900s that were delivered between 2008 and 2011.
Iraqi Airways took delivery of fourteen Boeing 737-800s between 2013 and 2017. This aircraft was delivered in May 2014. (Iraqi Airways)
On December 4, 2013, Bombardier announced a firm purchase agreement from Iraqi for five CS300s plus eleven options, confirming the Letter of Intent that was announced one month earlier at the Dubai Airshow. “Following the successful utilization of our six CRJ900 NextGen aircraft over the past few years, the acquisition of the CS300 aircraft will complement our network operations and allow us to expand into new markets,” CEO Saad Al-Khafaji was quoted in a press release.
No delivery date was given, but the CSeries became the A220 when Bombardier sold its stake to Airbus in 2018. The first A220 in Iraqi colors and registered YI-ARE (main picture) was seen in the paint shop in October last year. According to Airbus data, the ownership was transferred to the airline on November 8 but she stayed in Mirabel until January 6, when she flew to Manchester before continuing to Baghdad. ARF should follow soon, but the production list shows no immediate follow-on deliveries to Iraqi.
Iraqi has operated 747-400s for passenger services until recently. (Iraqi Airways)
Iraqi has ten 787s on order since 2008
The A220 with twelve Business Class and 120 Economy Class seats is ideally suited to build Iraqi’s regional network in the Middle East, like Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, and Dubai, while its range should be no problem to reach former CIS states like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, India, and even Europe. Remember that airBaltic serves Dubai with the A220-300 all the way from the Baltic States. That’s not too far from Stockholm in Sweden, which despite the EU travel ban for safety reasons is still listed as one of its 37 destinations on the airline’s outdated website.
In 2009, Iraqi also placed an order for nine 787-8s and one -9. The carrier was not in a position to take delivery of them and secured financing for the aircraft only in 2015. No Iraqi Dreamliners are showing on the production list. Reportedly, the carrier is looking to convert some 787-8s to -9s. While the airline told Air Transport World in December that it also has sixteen MAX 8s on order, there is no evidence for this in the Boeing orders list unless they are with undisclosed customers. The delivery of the first A220 is a start for Iraqi Airways to build its future.