BAGHDAD — The first new Boeing Co. jetliner sold to Iraq in 30 years touched down in Baghdad on Saturday, signaling the country’s determination to rebuild its economy after decades of war and sanctions.
Iraq is eager to improve its creaky aviation industry, which lags far behind those of its energy-rich neighbors. Boeing’s twin-aisle 777-200LR plane was delivered less than two weeks after the company’s chief rival, Airbus, announced the delivery of one of its own wide-body planes to Iraq.
“The arrival of this plane represents a big chance for Iraqi Airways to turn around,” Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri said.
More planes are coming. Iraq has ordered another 30 of Boeing’s smaller 737-800 model and 10 of its new 787. The first of the 737s will be delivered in the middle of next year, according to the Chicago-based plane manufacturer.
Airbus in early December said it had delivered its first A330-200 to Iraq. Iraqi Airways, which plans to use that plane on European and other international routes, already operates two Airbus A321s.
Boeing last sold Iraq a commercial plane — a version of the 747 jumbo jet — in 1982, said Donald Galvanin, the company’s sales director for the Middle East. He said the delivery this weekend is an important step toward improving Iraq’s economy.
“To bring in business, you need a connection with outside and a viable airline,” he said.
Iraq was able to get the 777 delivered now because another customer was unable to take it, Mr. Galvanin said. He said he expects Baghdad may be interested in buying more of the long-range jets down the road because “they realize they would need a few more.”
The U.S. Embassy said it worked closely with Boeing and Baghdad to complete the 777 sale. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Iraqi Airways’ efforts to turn itself around have been hobbled by aging equipment, a lack of adequately trained staff and a long-running dispute with Kuwait stemming from Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1990.
The disagreement centered on Kuwait’s accusations that Saddam’s regime stole 10 airplanes and millions of dollars worth of equipment and spare parts during the invasion. Kuwait earlier wanted $1.2 billion in reparations, which Iraq’s postwar leaders resisted paying.
Iraq and Kuwait this year reached a $500 million deal to settle the airline feud, paving the way for Iraqi Airways to resume normal operations. The dispute scuttled at least one planned Iraqi Airways route, between Baghdad and London, after Kuwait attempted to confiscate the Iraqi plane in the British capital.
As Iraqi Airways has struggled, foreign airlines have increasingly begun flying to the country, eating into the national carrier’s share of the market.
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