News / Middle East

Iran Window Shops at Airshow, Optimistic About Sanctions Relief

An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet, flies during the Dubai Airshow, Nov. 18, 2013.
An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet, flies during the Dubai Airshow, Nov. 18, 2013.
Reuters
Senior Iranian aviation executives were at the Dubai Airshow in a discreet campaign to update their aging passenger jets this week, even as Iran negotiated with international powers to ease economic sanctions over its nuclear program.

Under moderate President Hassan Rouhani, there has been increasing hope the talks in Geneva could secure a breakthrough in the decade-long nuclear stand-off, leading to relief from embargoes that have crippled Iran's airlines.

Iranian airlines are banned from buying new passenger planes from the world's two manufacturing giants, Airbus and Boeing, and rely on through purchases from third parties.

But easing the ban on sales of spare parts has been on the agenda of nuclear talks since 2006, and according to Western diplomats, remains part of a package of sanctions relief if an agreement is reached on curbing Iran's nuclear activities.

The West says the nuclear program is aimed at developing atomic weapons, but Iran says it is solely for the purpose of power generation and medical research.

Dozens of Iranian executives made private visits to the Middle East's largest aviation show in Dubai this week, their gaze on everything from Airbus's $400 million double-decker A380s to smaller essentials such as life jackets, inflight entertainment systems and coffee-makers for catering services.

But it is mostly a case of window-shopping, as big purchases still are well beyond the reach of Iranian carriers.

“Clearly Iran's aviation industry is in desperate need for new planes and spare parts and other technology necessary for travel in Iran and abroad,” said Theodore Karasik, research director at Dubai think-tank INEGMA. “If sanctions are lifted in this industry, it would be an outstanding humanitarian gesture to the Islamic Republic.”

A large country rich in natural resources and boasting one of the largest populations in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic would in normal circumstances be a flourishing market for air travel.

Instead, Iran's air industry tells a story of worsening safety, grounded aircraft and fare rises, which in turn are curbing demand.

Some Iranian visitors have negotiated deals at the show but are reluctant to talk openly, industry sources said.

“There are quite a lot of Iranians here who are interested in all sectors of the industry. The big Iranian airlines are also here to do business,” said an Iranian visitor at the airshow who called himself Mr. Fa'al. He works for a servicing and spare parts company in Iran.

“The situation is of course difficult but not impossible. We hope it's going to get better under Rouhani, but it all depends on whether they accept Iran's nuclear rights,” he added.

Pray before take-off

There are more than a dozen large airlines operating in Iran and several more fledgling carriers. The state carrier Iran Air has a fleet of about 40 planes including nine Boeing 747 jets, some of which were built before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The safety record for the carriers has resulted in most Iranian flights no longer being able to land within the EU.

There were about 14 aircraft crashes involving Iranian planes reported in the decade to January 2011, with hundreds of civilians killed and many more injured.

In October 2011, the pilot of an Iran Air plane averted disaster by landing without the forward landing gear. But for his skill, the tragic statistics could have been worse.

The head of one private Iranian airline recently said most of Iran's passenger planes were out of service.

“More than 60 percent of Iran's (passenger) airplanes in the country which have the average age of 22 years are grounded because of technical and logistical problems,” said Cyrus Baheri, director general of Iran Airtours airline.

Airline officials periodically announce the purchase of second-hand Airbus aircraft, mostly older A320 and A340 models, and are also heavily reliant on Russian-built passengers planes.

New hope

The airline sanctions were put in place under President Bill Clinton in 1995. During nuclear negotiations last year, the international powers - United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - held out the prospect of relief from the airline sanctions if Tehran curbed its nuclear program.

Since the election of Rouhani, there has even been talk of attempts to resume direct flights to the United States.

Earlier this week, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Reza Jahangirian, said everything was ready for the resumption of direct flights and it was simply a question of waiting for the government's final approval.

“We are currently waiting for the cue from the country's political authorities to put the flight into operation,” he said, Fars news agency reported.

However, such statements overlook myriad issues that need to be ironed out before such a route could be re-established. Safety is likely to be a significant obstacle, as are sanctions that bar all financial transactions between U.S. and Iranian companies, unless given exemption.

But some remain upbeat and await the green light.

“Upon lifting of sanctions there will not only be aircraft orders but various purchases... a vast spending spree on life jackets for the existing fleet, landing gear, aircraft engines, training and even flight maps, to name a few,” said an aviation consultant whose clients include Iranian carriers.

Mahan Air, one of the leading Iranian airlines, said it was very hopeful of the ongoing talks.

“We are very encouraged by the diplomatic discussions taking place. Sanctions have made the purchase of spare parts and new aircraft challenging,” said the airline spokesman. “Hopefully, the easing of sanctions will give us an opportunity to offer more destinations to our passengers,” he added.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More