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OEMs open the door to Iranian airlines

Earlier this year, it was reported that Iran Air was preparing to receive a fleet of modern aircraft by summer 2016, following the lifting of EU and US sanctions placed on the Islamic republic of Iran (a decision that was made on January 16). While a sizeable fleet revamp by summer is certainly ambitious for any carrier, Iran Air has been on a mission to modernise its aircraft ever since sanctions were lifted. On January 24, at the Centre for Aviation Iran Aviation Summit, Iran Air chairman and managing director, Farhad Parvaresh, said the airline plans to expand its network of 27 domestic and 29 international destinations, while highlighting a 10-year expansion plan. The airline also confirmed that it was “moving from survival mode to expansion plans”.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Iran Air was preparing to receive a fleet of modern aircraft by summer 2016, following the lifting of EU and US sanctions placed on the Islamic republic of Iran (a decision that was made on January 16).

While a sizeable fleet revamp by summer is certainly ambitious for any carrier, Iran Air has been on a mission to modernise its aircraft ever since sanctions were lifted.

On January 24, at the Centre for Aviation Iran Aviation Summit, Iran Air chairman and managing director, Farhad Parvaresh, said the airline plans to expand its network of 27 domestic and 29 international destinations, while highlighting a 10-year expansion plan. The airline also confirmed that it was “moving from survival mode to expansion plans”.

Not long after this statement, a multi-million dollar contract was penned between the airline and leading European manufacturer Airbus for 118 aircraft (signed on January 28), making that dream of a modern fleet a reality.

The contract, which was signed in Paris, includes 21 A320ceo family aircraft, 24 A320neo family aircraft, 27 A330ceo family aircraft, 18 A330-900neo aircraft, 16 A350-1000s and 12 A380s, with deliveries possibly able to start as early as this year.

To further anchor its interest in (and support for) the Iranian air travel industry, Airbus made a “symbolic first landing”, according to the airline, on Saturday (February 20) when one of its A350 aircraft touched down at Iran’s Tehran's Mehrabad airport, on a return journey from the Singapore Airshow.

But Airbus is not the only manufacturer that has shown an interest in the region, because turboprop manufacture ATR has also secured a contract with Iran Air that will see it provide the airline with 40 ATR 72-600 aircraft.

Additionally, Reuters reported on Friday (February 19) that aircraft manufacturer Boeing could now begin talks with Iranian airlines, thanks to the US government issuing a license that allows discussions on purchasing aircraft from the US to take place.  

But despite the positive headlines surrounding Iran Air and its deals with Airbus and ATR, its future relationship with Boeing and the US is notably trickier.

This is because the US government has only lifted some sanctions, meaning that the sale of an aircraft is only permitted when a US person or US financial system is not involved (among other things).

What’s more, in order for a sale to be finalised the US government would have to grant another separate licence, thus adding another layer to an already complex partnership.

While competition among the airframe manufacturers builds up and the Iranian air travel business looks towards a brighter future, with airlines like Iran Air focusing on big expansion plans, the next few years are certainly going to be interesting.

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