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Cablegate: Austrian Airlines Resumes Flights to Iraq

VZCZCXRO8282
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVI #0217 0451456
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141456Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY VIENNA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9481
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0151
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS VIENNA 000217

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON AU IZ
SUBJECT: AUSTRIAN AIRLINES RESUMES FLIGHTS TO IRAQ

REF: A) 07 STOCKHOLM 987 B) 06 VIENNA 609

1. Austrian Airlines (AUA) announced February 13 that it would
resume regularly scheduled service to the northern Iraqi city of
Erbil starting April 2. AUA had suspended its flights to Erbil in
August 2007, following an incident in which a Swedish commercial
aircraft reportedly came under rocket fire (ref A). Initially, AUA
will offer three direct flights a week (Mondays, Wednesdays,
Fridays), with plans to add a fourth flight (Sundays) in June.
Prior to the 2007 suspension, AUA flew four times a week to Erbil.

2. An AUA spokesperson underscored that all security issues have
been adequately addressed. An AUA contact told us separately that
the Erbil route, which AUA commenced in December 2006, had been very
profitable for the company with a load factor of 60-80%. Potential
customers include ethnic Kurds living abroad, employees of
international organizations and NGOs, and businessmen with
connections to the region. The spokesperson confirmed that AUA had
no plans to fly to additional Iraqi destinations for the moment.

3. On February 2, Iraqi's Mesopotamia Air began flying between
Vienna and the northern Iraqi city of Sulemaniya five times a week.
An Austrian aviation company provides aircraft, crew, and logistical
support for Mesopotamia Air. Our AUA contact downplayed any
concerns about competition, pointing out that Mesopotamia's load
factors "were very low."

KILNER#

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