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Cablegate: Coordination Problems Hamper Direct Flights

VZCZCXRO6937
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIHL RUEHIK
RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0377 1960758
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140758Z JUL 08 ZUI ZDK RUEHSD 0069 1970440
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8318
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RHMCSUU/FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEPGAB/MNF-I C2X BAGHDAD IZ
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000377

C O R R E C T E D COPY - ADDING SENSITIVE CAPTION

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON IZ PGOV TU
SUBJECT: COORDINATION PROBLEMS HAMPER DIRECT FLIGHTS
BETWEEN ISTANBUL AND ERBIL

1. (SBU) Privately owned Turkish airline Atlasjet on June 29
started regularly scheduled commercial direct flights between
Istanbul and Erbil in Northern Iraq. According to CEO Orhan
Coskun, Atlasjet will run five flights per week,
transporting roughly 3,000 passengers monthly. Coskun and
Director for Flight Operations Ahmet Ata, however, complained
to us that poor coordination between Atlasjet and the Iraqi
Civilian Aviation Authority (ICAA) caused a delay on at least
one of their flights. Ata provided us an email from July 3
where the ICAA blamed a computer problem at the U.S. Air
Force control in Kirkuk (RAM CC) for a delay in flight
authorization. Coskun said using ICAA as a go-between was
cumbersome and he requested a direct point of contact to both
RAM CC and Erbil Control. Ata also requested greater advance
authorization notice for their weekly flight plan.
Currently, Atlasjet only receives 24 hour notice before each
flight, according to Ata. Both Coskun and Ata understood the
difficult situation in Iraq, but they requested better
coordination to avoid unnecessary problems.

2. (SBU) Both Coskun and Ata expressed optimism about the
airline's new routes. Atlasjet is primarily a domestic
carrier and, before the flights to Erbil, the airline's only
international flights were charter. Ata was pleased with the
number of passengers so far. He told us the planes were
nearly full, and the volume about the same in each
direction. If all goes well, Coskun said, the airline will
add an additional flight per week by September. According to
Coskun, Atlasjet could later provide direct flights to Erbil
from other Turkish cites, such as Antalya. Coskun also said,
however, flights from Istanbul to Baghdad are not
commercially viable due to security concerns.

3. (U) Ata was pleasantly surprise with the security and
facilities at Erbil, when he visited the city in preparation
for the new route. Ata found Erbil to be a growing city with
great market potential for international flights. Ata was
encouraged by the number of people in Erbil who spoke
Turkish. Because of the widespread use of Turkish, Kurdish
was not a necessary language for the flight attendants.

4. (U) Past Turkish commercial ventures for direct flights
between Istanbul and Northern Iraq have failed. Regional
Turkish airline Fly Air started limited service to Erbiland
Sulaymaniyah in 2005, but the airline terminted these
flights less than one year later when te lease ended on its
two aircraft dedicated for his route. There are several
airlines operating ut of Erbil with Austrian Air flying
between Viena-Erbil five times a week and Royal Jordanian
hs six flights a week between Amman-Erbil. Also, a Krdish
carrier -- Laveen Air, part of the Zagros Group -- flies to
Istanbul three times a week.
IENER

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