IRAQI Airways will begin operating five flights a week between Baghdad and Bahrain from next week, it was declared yesterday.
Iraqi Airways general manager Kifah Jaboori said the exact days of operation would be finalised in the next two days.
"We intend to have operations between Bahrain and Najaf and later to other Iraqi cities as well," he said.
Mr Jaboori was speaking as the first Iraqi Airways flight to Bahrain in nearly 20 years landed at Bahrain International Airport.
The Boeing 737-200 touched down at around 3pm, around four hours behind schedule, carrying 26 passengers, including government and airline officials.
No explanation was given for the hold-up except that there were delays at Baghdad airport.
"We are very glad to be back in Bahrain after two decades," said Mr Jaboori.
"We know there is a lot of demand for travel between the two countries and we are sure we will make this route a huge success."
Mr Jaboori said the airline was also looking to expand its fleet and area of operations in the near future.
"We now own two aircraft while nine are leased. We will lease and buy more in the next few months," he said.
Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) Under-Secretary Captain Abdulrahman Al Gaoud, who welcomed the flight to Bahrain, said the new service was the result of the historical friendship between Bahrain and Iraq.
"There are family relations between the two countries which will benefit a great deal from these flights," he said.
"The fact that this has happened immediately after Gulf Air resumed flights between the two countries goes to show the level of interest that has been generated."
Capt Al Gaoud said the introduction of the flights would also boost trade links between the two nations.
The Iraqi Airways fleet was grounded by UN sanctions in 1991 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
The resumption of flights is part of an air transportation agreement between Bahrain and Iraq to boost trade and tourism links.
Iraqi Airways, founded in 1945, is one of the oldest airlines in the Middle East.
According to its website, it re-launched international operations in 2004 with a flight between Baghdad and Amman, Jordan, and has operated commercial domestic flights since 2006.
Gulf Air resumed flights to Iraq on Tuesday.
More than 90 passengers, including businessmen, government officials and journalists flew to Baghdad for a whistle-stop visit of the airport.
Gulf Air suspended commercial flights to the country in 1991 but continued to run cargo operations until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.