Iraq’s Fly Baghdad plans European flights next year, IPO in 2020

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Iraqi budget carrier Fly Baghdad aims to start flights to Europe and India next year, expanding its network beyond the Middle East and is planning a stock market listing in 2020, it chief executive said on Wednesday.

Fly Baghdad, owned by Iraqi investors, launched in 2015, competing against state-owned Iraqi Airways, one of the Middle East’s oldest airlines, and several other private carriers.

“There is a huge population which are cash rich and are not too many places to visit in Iraq. Everyone is talking about travelling,” Chief Executive Ali al-Hamdany told Reuters at an industry conference in Dubai.

The Baghdad-based airline operates a fleet of two Boeing 149-seat 737-700 jets and one 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 to northern Iraqi cities Erbil and Sulaimaniya, and to Turkey’s Istanbul and Jordan’s Amman.

Hamdany said Fly Baghdad would start talks with local and European regulators early next year to launch the European routes, which he said would target the Iraqi diaspora.

Hamdany, a former Air Arabia executive, led a restructuring of the airline after his appointment last year, which included a temporary grounding of its fleet.

Fly Baghdad aims to start turning a profit next year after it adds flights to Frankfurt in Germany, Malmo in Sweden, and Delhi in India as part of its proposed network expansion that will also include Dubai.

National carrier Iraqi Airways has been banned from Europe since 2015 because of safety standard compliance issues.

Fly Baghdad aims to carry around one million passengers next year, if its proposed network expansion goes ahead, compared with the 300,000 passengers it’s on track to carry this year.

Fly Baghdad will lease a Boeing 737-700 and Boeing 737-800 next year for the proposed new routes, Hamdany said, adding that there would be six to eight aircraft in airline’s fleet by 2020, when it aims to carry out an initial public offering.

He said it was too early to comment on where the airline would list, or how much money it would aim to raise.

Fly Baghdad will start flights to Ankara in Turkey and Beirut in Lebanon next month.