Iraqi Airways staff go on strike as 'bear escape scandal' rattles airline

Iraqi Airways staff go on strike as 'bear escape scandal' rattles airline
The aviation crew of Iraqi Airways went on strike on Thursday, leading to a suspension of flights across the country.
3 min read
11 August, 2023

Internal flights across Iraq were suspended on Thursday, 10 August, after the aviation crew of Iraqi Airways went on strike over not being paid salaries for the past two months. 

The New Arab contacted Iraqi Airways on the issue, but they denied suspension of the flights.

But an airline company confirmed to TNA that all local flights were suspended on Thursday afternoon.

Moreover, many Iraqi social media users said their flights were delayed due to a strike by the pilots and crew of the national airliner.

Local Iraqi media reported that the reason behind the strike was that Iraqi Airways employees had not received salaries for the past two months. The employees also asked for a pay rise as per other national airliners.  

Later in the day, the Iraqi authorities announced the resumption of the flights after Iraqi officials promised the Iraqi pilots and flight crew to fulfil all their demands.

Iraqi Airways, a state-owned company, on 4 August, issued a clarification on a bear escaping from a cargo cage during a flight by the airliner from Baghdad International Airport to Dubai Airport.

 The incident came into the spotlight after a passenger on the flight filmed a video clip of the bear and posted it on social media platforms.

The airliner apologized for the delay and said the incident had occurred beyond their capacity.

"Despite taking all safety procedures as per the international conventions for such cargoes (a bear), upon arrival at Dubai Airport, it was revealed that the animal has exited from the cage specified for its shipment," read a statement by the Iraqi Airways. "The plane crew coordinated with authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who immediately sent a special team and sedated the bear and took it off the plane, causing a delay in the return flight."

The airlines did not disclose who owned the bear, but Iraqi social media users said an Iraqi official owned the bear.

The Iraqi prime minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani has ordered an investigation into the incident.

"The Iraqi PM has ordered the minister of transportation to open an urgent and professional investigation into the causes of an error at an aeroplane related to Iraqi Airways …the error had negatively affected the performance of the plane, the flights, and the services presented to the passengers," Sudani's media office said on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter.

Iraqi transportation, a mixed sector between the public and private sectors, faces many challenges similar to the other sectors due to decades of wars, embargoes and corruption. Iraq is ranked 157 out of 180 countries in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index in 2022.