I am pleased to announce that Etihad Airways, the national airline of United Arab Emirates, recently announced its plans to extend service to Iraq, with service to the Kurdistan Region. The carrier intends to begin flights into Erbil on June 1.
Etihad is among several airlines that have moved to the Kurdistan Region, impressed by our growth and progress. Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian Airlines and Austria’s own Austrian Airlines already fly to the Kurdistan Region. Recent additions include Air Berlin, which commenced alternating flights between Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in February, and Lufthansa, which will begin flights this month.
While many carriers are taking advantage of Iraq’s emerging market, the United States still operates under Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) Number 77. The regulation dates back to 1996 during the regime of Saddam Hussein, and it prohibits flight operations within the territory and airspace of Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region by any U.S. air carrier or commercial operator.
Today, the policy is exceptionally antiquated as the country is a vastly different place and a peaceful partner of the United States. The U.S. should join the likes of Western and international carriers and lift SFAR 77. Until they do, they will be missing the opportunity to compete in our emerging market.