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In 2011, 621,870 passengers used Erbil’s new International Airport, a 37% increase on the previous year, whilst cargo tonnage also increased dramatically, with a 67% increase to 17,769 tonnes per annum.

The increase in passenger and cargo numbers will help cement Erbil International Airport as one of the fastest growing in the Middle East and underlines the wisdom of the KRG’s fifth cabinet and its then Prime Minister, Nichevan Barzani’s decision to commission the new airport in 2004.

With an average of 11 flights a day, and around 38 cargo flights a month the airport is set to grow further in 2012 but does not anticipate that the level of increase will be as strong, reflecting the onset of a period of consolidation for EIA and the fact that levels of air travel around the world have, and continue to be, affected by economic woes.

The +37% increase in passenger numbers to 621,870 puts EIA, four years, and 45% ahead of its own master plan. The independently produced plan has predicted 430,000 passengers in 2011.

The most popular routes remain Istanbul and Baghdad, with Turkish and Atlas leading the way on routes to the north, whilst Iraqi Airways continues to operate the most flights into Erbil with an average of around 95 a month. New routes in 2011 have included Turkish Airways to Istanbul, and Pegasus to Ankara, Eygpt Air to Cairo and Air Cyprus to Larnaca. Etihad increased its frequency from x2 to x 4 per week.

Commenting on the record growth, Airport Director Talar Faiq said:

In March ahead of the official opening I told the media we anticipated around 600,000 passengers this year, that we have exceeded that total, and processed more than 621,000 passengers is welcome news and a great endorsement of the airport in its first official year of operation.

“The growth in passenger numbers reflects not only the confidence the airlines have placed in operations at EIA but also the hard work of all the agencies involved – immigration, customs, security at EIA’s own team. It is also a direct reflection on what is happening in Kurdistan – the growing economy, the security and stability overseen by the KRG, and the growing reputation of Kurdistan as a place to visit and do business.

“It has been a year of first’s for EIA – not only in the official opening but also in behind the scenes developments that are so vital to the running of an airport to international standards – From the airport certification via the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority, to the ability for EIA to control airspace around the airport, to the implementation of safety procedures to the opening up of a business lounge. EIA has invested a great deal in training for radar and air traffic control, to developing is operational staff and ensuring they have the skills to do their jobs. Such developments and milestones are essential to the airports future development.

“The new airport stated operating in September 2010, and was officially opened by the KRG President Masood Barzani and Prime Minister Erdoggan of Turkey in March. I expect the coming year to be one of consolidation with fewer new airlines arriving, but existing airlines developing their business. I anticipate further growth in cargo as Kurdistan’s growth fuels a demand for imports and the ending of exclusive cargo deals opens up the market to more carriers.

“The master plan is a document mapping out the next 30 years for EIA – that we are ahead of schedule is great news but we must think long term and ensure steps are taken to put in place the expertise and infrastructure to take EIA to the next level.

To do so is not an end in itself, but serves to reinforce the role of the airport as a gateway to Kurdistan and a vital economic enabler for development yet to come.

  • The average passenger growth rate since 2006 and the launch of civilian aviation traffic at Erbil International is 31.5% a year.
  • The 2011 increase of 37% is the strongest year on year growth for five years.
  • New routes, increased frequencies from existing carriers are the main reasons for growth.
  • The monthly pattern for travel demand through EIA is consistent with airports in the Middle East and sees peak traffic through in July and September.
  • The growth in cargo has been driven with the demand for imports into the booming Kurdistan economy – Emirates, Etihad, and Maximus all serve Erbil International with dedicated cargo freighters. Cargo tonnage is set to continue to expand in 2012 with a number of airlines seeking to launch dedicated cargo services.
  • Total traffic movement is a combination of passenger and cargo air traffic movements arriving and department EIA and reflects the growth of the airport. The decrease in 2008 reflects fewer cargo flights in that year.

(Source: Erbil International Airport)

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