Could you brief our readers about Azmar Air and its key projects?
Azmar Air was established in 2005. We are the fifteenth company in the Middle East to have the International Air Transport Association’s Safety Audit for Ground Operations certificate. We manage ground handling, cargo, fuel, and catering services at Sulaymaniyah International Airport (SIA). Azmar Air has been growing 20% each year. We have about 600 staff now.
We are also the first company in Iraq to have a private airport, and we are now building Iraq’s first specialized cargo airport in Sulaymaniyah, which we will own completely. The new airport in Sulaymaniyah will be the biggest one in Iraq. It will be built at the same airport, with the same runway and taxiway. We will be closing the old terminal and building a new one with a hotel. It will take a minimum of four years to finish. We are also building the Sulaymaniyah Cargo Village, which will be finished in August.
The new airport in Slemani will be the biggest one in Iraq. It will be built at the same airport, with the same runway and taxiway. We will be closing the old terminal and building a new one with a hotel.
Do you believe that Sulaymaniyah can be a cargo hub?
Iraqi airspace is a corridor for all the flights between the West and the East. Everyday there are around 300 flights over Iraq. So, Sulaymaniyah is in a good position to be a point of connection between the West and East. Through our cargo company, we can provide the facilities needed for a hub that can distribute cargo from Sulaymaniyah to the East. The new airport will play a crucial role in positioning Sulaymaniyah as a cargo hub for the region. This is our main plan.
How does the current political situation affect the growth of the aviation industry in Kurdistan?
As you know, all permission comes from the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority in Baghdad. No airline can fly to the Kurdistan Region without the approval of the ICAA. It affects us negatively. Airlines know that we have to get that approval from the ICAA, and then they come to us. On the other hand, we have been talking with Baghdad about taking on ground handling operations at the airports in Basra and Baghdad for a year now. We won a tender over seven international competitors. Until now, our case has been stuck in the Ministry of Transportation in Baghdad because of political problems. We are waiting for the situation to change.
What do you see in the future of the aviation industry in Kurdistan?
The airline business is directly connected with people’s economic situation, and the economic potential and growth of Kurdistan. We believe that the aviation industry will improve in the Kurdistan Region if the economic situation continues to improve here. As I mentioned, we would like to see Kurdistan become a cargo hub for the region in the future.