Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Inshallah Airlines

I've spent the last three days trying to fly from Arbil to Baghdad. The first flight had good reason to be cancelled. Baghdad was under curfew and if the plane arrived, would any of the passengers be able to leave the airport? Our security staff said they would be able to pick me up from Baghdad International Airport, despite the lockdown, and I went to the airport hoping that the plane would leave. After waiting for a few hours, we were told that there would not be any flights to Baghdad. That was Sunday. The Iraqi Airways manager said something about the flight being cancelled the next day, too.

Monday, I received an explanation that "technical difficulties" had grounded the flight. The airport was curiously empty. It seems that most of the passengers heeded the warning.

I arrived at the airport yesterday optimistic that I would be successful on my third attempt. The departure hall was packed, but it only meant that more people would share my disappointment. The explanation? Barzani felt like he needed to head off to Istanbul, and commandeered the Iraqi Airways flight.

I'm perfectly happy to stay in Arbil. I've told the staff here that I'll leave when we are certain the plane is going to take off. The manager hinted that Barzani would need the plane for two days. On a positive note, I did get to bond with my fellow passengers. We're going to encourage Talabani, Jafari, and anyone else who might have oversight of the airline to rename the company "Inshallah Airlines." Also, the seats in Arbil International Airport do not have armrests in between them, making it easy to sprawl out and sleep while waiting for flights to be cancelled.

I am not too concerned about returning to Baghdad. I don't know how much worse the situation will become, but it seems that the curfew has done a good job of lessening the tension after the mosque bombing. The number killed during the wave of violence - 1300 - is huge even by Iraq standards, and I'm sure there is more to follow. However, I think that eventually things will return to normal in Baghdad, if there is such a thing. From the safety of our compound, this means more thuds, and further restrictions on travel within Baghdad.


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