US drone strike near Baghdad Airport leads to flight disruptions in the region

On Friday morning local time, the United States military launched a drone strike near Baghdad Airport (BGW) in Iraq, killing Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. In the wake of the subsequent military and political upheaval, at least two airlines with cargo operations in Iraq have canceled their flights into BGW and elsewhere in the country.

The first airline to suspend flights was Bahrain-based Gulf Air, which announced in a travel alert on Twitter that it would suspend its flights to and from BGW and Najaf (NJF), south of Baghdad, until further notice “due to safety and security issues.” According to the airline’s website, it operates a cargo office out of NJF.

The national airline of Jordan, Royal Jordanian, has also suspended its flights to and BGW, with flight-tracking software Flightradar24 listing several upcoming Royal Jordanian flights scheduled for departure or arrival at BGW as canceled. In addition to its passenger aircraft, Royal Jordanian operates an A310-300 freighter. However, it appears, also based on flight-tracking software, that most of the carrier’s flights from its Amman (AMM) base into BGW operate using its Embraer fleet.

Azerbaijani-based cargo carrier Silk Way Airlines also operates into BGW from Baku (GYD), using its Ilyushin II-76 cargo aircraft. The carrier has not yet responded to a request for comment on whether it will also halt operations into Iraq, but current flight-tracking data suggests no changes have so far been made to Silk Way’s schedule.

While cargo operations don’t feature heavily at BGW, the country’s commercial cargo market noted some improvements early last decade – particularly related to its robust oil production. In more recent years, major logistics providers including Panalpina have benefited from the demand for outsized cargo related to oil production in Iraq and the larger region.

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