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Canceled Najaf Flights to Fly to Baghdad

Canceled Najaf Flights to Fly to BaghdadCanceled Najaf Flights to Fly to Baghdad

All 10 Iranian airlines that operate flights to Najaf will instead fly to Baghdad from July 1, following a rift between the aviation companies and the private owners of Al Najaf International Airport.

Financial Tribune reported last week that due to a recent regulatory change that makes operating flights to the Najaf airport very costly, Iranian airlines will stop flying to the holy city from July 1.

According to Maqsoud Asadi Samani, secretary of Iran's Aviation Companies Association, the airport authorities have implemented a retrospective customs duty for airlines going back to 2010. In other words, all airlines have to pay $85 for every one of their flights that has landed at the city's airport from 2010 onward.

Furthermore, they're charging Iranian airlines $15 for every seat while passengers have to pay $10 upon arrival.

Overall, Iranian aviation companies splurge between $14,000 and $18,000 per flight at the Najaf airport, whereas every flight to Iran by Iraq-registered airlines costs the companies $3,000 to $3,500 per flight for aircraft ground handling.

The holy shrines of Imam Ali (PBUH) in Najaf and his son, Imam Hussein (PBUH) in Karbala, are visited by scores of Iranian pilgrims throughout the year. Iranian officials argue that the regulatory changes will only increase the costs of pilgrimage for people.

The Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization of Iran has yet to react to the news; however, unofficial reports claim that the organization's top brass are in talks with the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran to minimize the impact of the airlines' decision on pilgrims.

To ensure Iranian pilgrims will get to visit the shrines, the airlines will instead fly to Baghdad, from which travelers can travel by land to Najaf and Karbala, ISNA reported. While it is inconvenient, it seems to be the only alternative that doesn't put heavy financial burdens on pilgrims.

Flights to Najaf will resume once airport officials review their policies, according to Samani.


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