ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The travel ban imposed on Kurdistan’s international airports in Erbil and Sulaimani is already taking a financial toll on revenue coming into the Kurdistan Region as well as causing problems for passengers, just hours after the ban came into effect, Friday at 6 pm.
“Today all scheduled flights went normally until 6 pm. We were hoping the situation would change but we didn’t get any information from Baghdad so all international flights have been suspended,” said Talar Faeq, general director of Erbil’s airport.
Faeq said the airport reserves the right to review their capability for the operation of the airport.
“As you can see, everything has stopped except the domestic flights,” she said. “Now we must accept this fact.”
Faeq said the airport will stop receiving revenue from airlines, which will have an immediate impact on the Kurdistan Region.
“At the same time, we’re not receiving any money from Iraqi Airways for landing or passenger tax, which has now accumulated and reached $33 million,” she explained.
Erbil’s airport serves between 50 and 60 flights and between 5,000 to 5,500 passengers per day, bringing in an estimated daily revenue of $350,000, Faeq said.
She stressed that the travel ban would not affect the jobs of any employees, however.
“This is not a reasonable decision for anyone. Not just for the airport, not for the normal citizens, not for our employees, and it’s not serving humanitarian issues.” she said. “I think it needs to be reviewed again.”
Earlier in the day, just an hour before the ban was to go into effect, Nishtiman Youth Network (NYN) organized a peaceful protest at both Erbil and Sulaimani airports.
Hundreds of protesters attended the event. holding messages such as ‘beauty’, ‘dreams’, ‘happy’, ‘energy’, ‘patience’, ‘positive’, and ‘independence’ – attaching the motivational words in both Kurdish and English to hundreds of balloons.
The organizers from NYN read a statement addressed to the international community in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish, and English just before the balloons were released into the air.