Iraqi Airways will operate its first commercial flight from Baghdad to London in 20 years on Friday April 16.

The flight is expected to arrive in Gatwick at 11pm tonight after stopping at Malmo airport in Sweden for additional security checks and will be one of two flights a week, with the other operating on Monday. Return flights to Baghdad will not require the additional security stop over.

Saad al-Khafaji, the general manager of the Iraqi Airways GSA office in the UK, said it is hoped the airline will be operating five flights a week within the next three months and should help the country’s efforts to rebuild itself following the invasion in 2003.

Al-Khafaji said: “We have been waiting for this moment since August 2003, we’ve worked very hard to get final approval for this.”