Saudia flies back from Baghdad carrying 100 Umrah pilgrims


Saudi Gazette report

— The first Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) to land in Baghdad in about 27 years returned to Jeddah on Monday carrying 100 Iraqi Umrah pilgrims on board.

The pilgrims expressed extreme happiness when they got down at King Abdulaziz International Airport ( KAIA) in Jeddah.

They said their passports were processed and luggage cleared in record time, which enabled them to proceed immediately to Makkah.

The inaugural flight left KAIA Monday evening about 300 passengers, including Saudia Director General Saleh Al-Jasser, Iraqi Ambassador to the Kingdom Rushdi Al-Aani, Saudi Charge D'Affaires in Baghdad Salah Al-Hatlani and a number of officials and journalists.

The flight landed at Baghdad airport in two hours and was received by a number of officials including Khaled Al-Attiyah, head of the Iraqi Haj and Umrah Authority, senior Saudi diplomats and a number of Iraqi officials.

A reception to celebrate the occasion was held at Baghdad International Airport during which Al-Attiyah said the resumption of regular flights between Saudi Arabia and Iraq was the wish of every Iraqi citizen.

"The resumption of flights will further strengthen ties between the two countries and will facilitate the arrival of Iraqi pilgrims to Makkah and Madinah," he said.

Al-Jasser, on his part, described the day as historical and said efforts never ceased during the past 27 years to arrive at this moment.

He said Saudia would consider flying to other destinations in Iraq.

There are two daily flights between the two countries at present, which may increase in the future.