February 1, 2012
Posted: 1345 GMT

–By CNN's Frederik Pleitgen in Baghdad

A flight from Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, to Baghdad takes about 35 minutes. So we didn't think there would be any problems this morning when we got up to go to the airport. We called Iraqi Airways to make sure the flight was actually leaving at 2pm like it was supposed to. The lady at Iraqi Airways said they had decided to move the flight to 7am, so it was long gone. Someone should have called us, but nobody did.

So we asked to be put on the next flight they said was scheduled to leave at 5pm. A few calls later and we are told the flight had moved to 7pm, and it was not clear we would be on it. With the next phone call they told us we were confirmed on the flight!

We then made our way to the airport at 4:30, and when we got there the nice lady at the counter told us WE WERE NOT ON THE FLIGHT and would have to be waitlisted. She told us to move our eight cases of TV gear out of the way and wait for everyone else to check in.

So we waited, and waited until 150 people checked in. Finally the lady called us forward and scolded us for checking in so late. She demanded we pay 25 dollars to the guys who would now have to hand carry our stuff to the plane because it was so late and the plane was about to leave.

We finally made it to the gate. And of course the plane had not even arrived. In fact they had cancelled a Dubai flight earlier and merged the two flights, so that the plane would go Erbil-Baghdad-Dubai.

Hours passed. The crowd at the gate swelled. Finally, at 8:20pm (1:20h after we were supposed to take off), a plane arrived at the gate.

It was 9pm before we were able to board. When we got on the plane, the temperature was about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I would say the plane was about 25 years old and the seat I got could not be put in the upright position.

The crew asked the passengers to turn off their cell phones and minutes later we took off to the sound of loud ringtones and blaring Arabic music.

The flight was bumpy, but we finally made it though the airline managed to lose one of our crew members' bags.

Two years ago I did a report about Iraqi Airways and spoke to the spokesman of the Iraqi government, Ali Dabagh. He said Iraqis deserve a better airline. From what we saw today, they still have a long way to go.

Filed under: Iraq

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Carla   February 1st, 2012 3:12 pm ET

Unbelievable credible story!!

Bren   February 1st, 2012 3:47 pm ET

Tough luck Fred!!

Juliana Prechter   February 1st, 2012 4:16 pm ET

WOW! I will be heading off for my 6th trip to Iraq going to Erbil this time. On my first trip to the Erbil Airport I gathered my baggage from a small room and thought when I went through a door that I would enter a lobby where I would wait for my ride. It was 3AM.
When I went though the door instead of the lobby I was back on the pavement informed that I would have to travel elsewhere to meet my ride. My stomach turned into knots.
I hope the airport has been altered. I am glad you are still around to write your story!!

azzam   February 1st, 2012 7:22 pm ET

Iraqi airways should change its name to Inshaa Allah Airways 🙂

Kurdistan Adventures   February 1st, 2012 8:53 pm ET

G'day Juliana,

That is how Erbil airport works. Once you clear customs and collect your luggage, unless you have a prearranged vehicle/driver who is able to drive up to the terminal building (not all can due to security restrictions) – you have to hop on the communal bus with everyone.

It takes you out to the external car park/meeting point where people can meet you and there are taxis. This is part of the reason why Erbil is considered a secure airport as generally normal vehicles cannot approach the terminal buildings.

Hope this helps.

Kurdistan Adventures.

Seb Meyer   February 2nd, 2012 9:23 am ET

You came to Kurdistan and didn't call me? Shame!

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