After an amazing week in Iraq, I was off to Cairo via Iraqi Airways. Iraqi Airways is an elusive airline. Iraqi Airways does not sell tickets via most GDS nor shares flight information. Despite these challenges, I was able to book myself on a direct flight from Basra to Cairo in March of 2022. It did help to have a direct contact in Iraq who was able to help us book the flights. Flying out of Iraq is its own adventure with extra security and several check points.
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Iraqi Airways Airport Experience
Unlike most places in the world, Iraq airports are extremely secure. You cannot just drive up to the airport. Getting into the airport is an entire process. To even get to the airport there are several security checks. Our driver was not able to drive us to the airport. At the first security check, we were pointed towards a general parking lot. This lot is several miles from the airport.
In the general parking lot, we had to switch to an airport approve driver and taxi. The cost was around $5 a person for the short ride.
Once in the approved car, we were able to go through the first check point. Then we had to get out of the car with our luggage and go through standard airport style security. At this point, the airport is still at least a mile away.
After clearing security, we reloaded the vehicle with our luggage. Heading closer to the airport, we were clear to continue. After a few minutes we arrived at the Basra airport terminal.
Once inside, we had to clear another security check with our luggage to even reach the check in counters. The airport was beautiful with amazing traditional Islamic architecture.
We gave the attendants our negative PCR tests and then we were free to check in. After clearing security of course.
There was basically no line at check in. This made the process very quick. Agents spoke English and were friendly.
After check in, we once again had to go through another security check. I thought at this point this would be the last TSA style pre-check. To my surprise though it wasn’t. During this check, my cologne bottle was confiscated. Despite being less than three ounces (100ML), I was not allowed to travel with it in my carryon. The reason, glass. No glass is allowed on flights. After all, it could be utilized as a weapon.
After this check point, we were in the gate area. The gate area was just a large room with a VERY expensive coffee shop and gift shop. Three americanos, chips, and a soda was over $20 usd! The area had many seats and WIFI, but limited charging ports. There is also a duty free and a VIP lounge. We did not have access to the VIP lounge as we were flying economy.
When it was getting close to boarding time, we went through another security check. This was the 4th security check!
Once through the final security check, we found ourselves in another waiting area. It was very basic with just seats. Thankfully we only sat here for about 15 minutes. Then it was time to board our plane.
To board our flight it was by bus. There was another Iraqi airways flight sitting on the tarmac. To access the flight, we walked down stairs and waited on the tarmac for a bus.
Flying Iraqi Airways
After a short bus ride, it was time to fly Iraqi Airways. Todays flight was on a 10 year old A320. Nothing new and shiny here, unlike the majority of the Iraqi fleet.
The A320 had only economy class seat with no business class cabin. The color tones were not warm or welcoming. There is no IFE, WIFI or power on this plane. Yet, I still felt that flying Iraqi Airways was a unique opportunity and I was happy to fly.
Before take off the purser came though and welcomed several people on board. He spoke English and Arabic. All announcements were also in both languages.
After takeoff, both the gentleman pictured above and another female flight attendant sat in row one and did not work. Instead, two younger male flight attendants did all cabin service. First, both of the younger flight attendants gave every passenger a bottle of water. Then, a hot meal service was provided.
There was no option of chicken or beef, but instead just chicken. The hot meal came outside of the box which had additional goodies.
Inside the box was juice, a cake like bar and fruit. For presentation reasons and to save space, I placed my curry chicken inside the box.
The meal was actually delicious. On par with what I would expect from a North American airline in business class. During meal service the two working flight attendants returned with coffee and tea for all passengers. The other two just sat in row 1 talking.
Iraqi Airways Final Thoughts
Overall, flying Iraqi airways was an experience. Service was great and the plane was mostly empty. I was originally sat next to stranger but was able to move to an Exit row. My friend took the other exit row and was able to stretch out comfortably.
The two working flight attendants were fun. Their English was good and they were interactive. When I told them I was a blogger they joked that they were going to be famous 😀 We all had a good laugh about that. I mean, who actually reads this?
The only part of flying Iraqi Airways that made me scratch my head was the other passengers. I’ve seen this in other places, but Iraq took it to a new extreme. The minute the wheels touched down, half the plane stood up. Even after several announcements to sit down, people were still in the aisle.
Thankfully, we made it to our remote stand and were able to board our buses without delays.
Overall the flight was semi short at just 3 hours. I was impressed by Iraqi Airways. Service was great and there was even a meal in economy. The plane was old, but that was just the luck of the draw. I would recommend flying Iraqi Airways and look forward to my next trip to Iraq. Because after all, Iraq is VERY underrated! More of that to come in a future post, but for now, here’s how to get a visa to Iraq.