From today's Sunday Times:-
BA scrambles for first flight back
By Daniel McGrory in Baghdad and Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
BRITISH AIRWAYS hopes to be the first airline to resume flights to Baghdad this week, but it will be an honour of dubious value. The airport, which was scheduled to reopen <18 July>, is nowhere near ready for commercial flights.
In the present circumstances, flights into the Iraqi capital would rank among the most dangerous in the world. With 10,000 US troops based inside the 11-mile perimeter, the authorities are not worried about hijackers or terrorists in the buildings. Their fear is that an insurgent with a shoulder-held missile-launcher will fire at an aircraft taking off. The other concern is how passengers can reach flights, because there are almost daily attacks on American convoys on the road to the airport.
Nonetheless, politicians, aid workers, businessmen, returning Iraqi exiles and journalists are longing for Baghdad International to reopen, because the alternative is a 1,000km (620-mile) drive across desert and bandit country to Jordan.
Yesterday the only people in the cavernous terminal buildings were hundreds of US soldiers, who use them as sleeping quarters, and a handful of local staff, who sat staring at the line of check-in counters.
Six Iraqi Airways jets sit at the passenger gates. The first soldiers to fight their way into the airport in April tore out controls and now use the jets to sleep in. The only fast food outlet, a Burger King, is for military personnel only.
Airlines have been told that when the airport does open, passengers should expect to be handled like prisoners of war. Checks will be interminable.
BA is, however, racing other airlines to be the first to resume flights. It intends to fly a 180-seat Boeing 767 three times a week from Heathrow from early September. Competitors, including Lufthansa, KLM and the Polish airline LOT have also applied to fly. KLM has already begun to take bookings. It is planning joint flights with US airlines.
There was strong interest from companies involved in reconstruction, public-sector staff, aid officials and Iraqi exiles, BA said. It plans to minimise the risk to crews by ensuring that they fly on to Kuwait or Jordan to rest.