Passengers have been snapping up seats on Gulf Air flights to Iraq and Iran which are set to resume this week after an 18-month suspension.
The national carrier will begin relaunching services to Baghdad, Erbil, Najaf and Basra in Iraq and Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan in Iran from Thursday.
The flights, which are popular routes for thousands of pilgrims, have been suspended since March last year.
It followed a government advisory urging Bahrainis against visiting the countries following claims that Iran and Lebanon-based militant group Hizbollah were involved in Bahrain’s unrest.
“The flight bookings for Iran and Iraq are very encouraging,” said a Gulf Air spokesman.
“In addition, we are receiving group bookings from passengers travelling for religious purpose.”
The spokesman said the airline began receiving inquiries as soon as the announcement that flights would resume was made last month.
“The seats are filling up fast also because of special promotional fares that are being offered,” he added.
Bahrain Air also suspended flights to and from Iran and Iraq in March last year.
But chief executive officer Richard Nuttall said it had still not been given approval by the Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) to resume flights to Iran and Iraq.
“Bahrain Air applied to the CAA to resume our schedules to Iraq and Iran on August 16,” he said.
“We received a letter on September 9 advising that it would not be possible to grant us approval at this time.
“This is disappointing, especially as we were the first Bahrain carrier to fly to Najaf.”
Mr Nuttall said the airline was actively working to resolve the issue with the authorities.
“At this time there seems to be different rules for different carriers in Bahrain,” he said.
“But we hope to be able to resolve this going forward so that we can better serve our loyal customers and indeed recoup the losses incurred when we stopped flights to various destinations at the CAA’s request in view of security concerns last year.”
Both carriers also suspended flights to Lebanon, but resumed Beirut services in June.
During the suspended dates, Gulf Air pledged to transfer tickets to alternative airlines where possible or give a full refund to passengers holding confirmed tickets to Iran and Iraq.
The Iran Project is not responsible for the content of quoted articles.