AVIATION services firm John Menzies has made a pioneering move into the Iraqi market as it grapples with the slump in the industry triggered by the coronavirus crisis.

The Edinburgh-based firm has won a contract to provide services such as fuelling and ground handling at Baghdad International Airport with joint venture partners.

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The venture has become the first foreign aviation services company to win a licence from the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority covering services such as ground handling.

Security group G4S provides screening services at Baghdad International Airport.

John Menzies said Iraq wants to draw on the expertise of global industry players to help grow its aviation industry. The company said the industry was a key driver for the Iraqi economy.

“Menzies provides passenger, ramp and cargo services at over 200 airports globally and we’re excited to share our unparalleled experience to help build knowledge and competence within the workforce in Baghdad,” It said.

The value of the contract was not disclosed.

It appears to provide an endorsement for John Menzies, which is keen to move into new geographic markets.

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The company has been hit hard by the sharp reduction in global air traffic that has followed the imposition of lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Last week Menzies said it expects to reduce total employee numbers by 30 per cent under a cost saving drive initiated last year.

It said the market could recover gradually from the second quarter as coronavirus vaccines are rolled out around the world.

Baghdad is the hub airport for Iraqi Airways. International operators such as Qatar Airways and Emirates offer flights to Baghdad.

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The partners in the MASIL venture with Menzies are Iraqi Airways, Air BP and Iraqi conglomerate the Al Burhan Group.