THE NEW YORK TIMES
June 23, 2005
Flight 15 to Basra: Few Perks, but No Bombs. No Complaints.
By EDWARD WONG
ABOARD FLIGHT 15, over southern Iraq - The smiling flight attendants strode down the aisle of the Boeing 727 in crisp green uniforms, handing out cold cans of soda and pieces of cake.
But it was more than just the food service, a throwback to another age of aviation, that brought a sense of relief to the passengers.
Just minutes earlier, the plane had leveled off after a steep corkscrew ascent from Baghdad International Airport. It was cruising now at 23,000 feet. In one piece.
No smoke trails from surface-to-air missiles, no rocket attacks, no mortar hits.
"The flight will be good, God willing," Awadees Razoiam, 55, an oil geologist, said as he bit into his cake.
Such is the scene aboard the Iraqi equivalent of the New York-to-Washington shuttle - a 55-minute hop between Baghdad and the southern oil city of Basra that costs $75 for a one-way coach ticket. The flight, begun this month, is the first domestic service operated by state-owned Iraqi Airways since the American-led invasion.
There are no frequent-flier benefits and no free newspapers at the gate. But the flight allows quick and safe passage (relatively speaking) between the capital and the city at the heart of Iraq's economy, making it perhaps the most significant in-country transportation development since the war.