Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, has just returned from a whirlwind three-day journey to Iraq. His trip included seven flights on two carriers.
Seven Flights For Pope Francis Iraq Trip
Francis became the first pope to ever travel to Iraq, a country of 39 million people but in which only 1% identifies as Christian (of all sects). Of that 1%, there are estimated to be only about 240K Roman Catholics.
As the head of state for the Holy See, more commonly known as the Vatican, Francis filled his trip not only with masses and other gatherings of Iraqi Roman Catholics, but meetings with prominent officials, including Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
While actual practice varies, tradition calls for the pope to fly to the foreign nation on Italian flag carrier Alitalia and then back on the flag carrier of the host nation.
For this trip, however, Iraqi Airways is banned from European airspace so Francis used an Alitalia Airbus A330-200 for the round-trip journey. Within Iraq, however, he did use Iraqi Airways for five domestic flights. It is not clear what aircraft were used, but Iraqi Airways currently operates a mix of Airbus A320s and Boeing 737-800s within Iraq.
His flight itinerary, stretching over four days, included two Alitalia flights and five Iraqi Airways flights:
- March 5
- Rome (FCO) – Baghdad (BGW) – Alitalia
- March 6
- Baghdad (BGW) – Najaf (NJF) – Iraqi Airways
- Najaf (NJF) – Nasiriyah (XNH) – Iraqi Airways
- Nasiriyah (XNH) – Baghdad (BGW) – Iraqi Airways
- March 7
- Baghdad (BGW) – Erbil (EBL) – Iraqi Airways
- Erbil (EBL) – Baghdad (BGW) – Iraqi Airways
- March 8
- Baghdad (BGW) – Rome (CIA) – Alitalia
Here are some pictures from Vatican state media of his journey:
(apologies for the low quality images – these are what the Vatican provided)
As with most papal trips, Francis departed Rome Fiumicino (FCO) and returned to Ciampino (CIA). Does anyone know why this is?
I wonder if Pope Francis takes his chef along when he travels or if he eats the airline catering? These were all chartered flights, so I’d suspect he brought his own food. In any case, seven flights in essentially three days is an impressive feat for an 84-year-old man, especially with a full schedule between them.