First new Airbus in decades arrives in Iran

The A321 jet, purchased after the nuclear deal with world powers, will mainly be used for domestic flights within Iran.

A logo of IranAir is pictured on an Airbus A321 during the first delivery as the company takes delivery of the first new Western jet under an international sanctions deal in Colomiers
The first Airbus aircraft will enter service on Saturday starting on busy domestic routes [Regis Duvignau/Reuters]

The first Airbus passenger plane ordered by IranAir in decades after the lifting of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic has landed in the capital, Tehran, according to Iranian media.

The new A321 jet arrived at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport on Thursday on a flight from the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France.

The head of IranAir, Farhad Parvaresh, called the delivery a “sunny day” for relations between Iran and Europe, and a memorable one for aviation in the nation of 80 million people.

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The 189-seat plane, already painted in IranAir’s livery, is the first of 100 ordered from Airbus following a deal reached in 2015 between Tehran and world powers to lift sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on the country’s nuclear activities.

“The average age of the IranAir fleet, that carries around six million passengers each year, is 25,” Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said.

“This is a big achievement for President Hassan Rouhani and his current government as well as the Iranian people who have been extremely worried about the state of the country’s airlines and passenger planes.”

IranAir has also ordered 80 aircraft from Boeing and is in the final stages of negotiating an order for 20 turboprops from Toulouse-based ATR, which is jointly owned by Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo Finmeccanica.

The A321 will primarily be used for domestic flights within Iran, the airline said.

First since 1979

Highlighting Iran’s emergence from years of isolation, the Airbus delivery marks the first new jet directly acquired from a western manufacturer since 1979, other than the replacement of an Airbus jet shot down by the US Navy in 1988.

Both Airbus and Boeing need US export licences to deliver the jets because of the number of US parts.

Both have received licences, but Boeing needs to have the majority extended due to the lengthy delivery period and analysts expect it to point to the Airbus delivery in order to press the case for its sales to remain in force.

Parvaresh said that he hoped the US would not block the agreement under President Donald Trump, who at times has pledged to pull Washington out of the nuclear accord.

“Everything has been done according to the international regulations and rules up to now. We hope that nothing special happens to end this contract,” Parvaresh told reporters.

The first Airbus aircraft will enter service on Saturday starting on busy domestic routes such as Tehran to Mashhad for the next couple of months, he said.

IranAir hopes to receive “at least two more from Airbus” by the start of the Iranian new year in March, and a total of six A320 aircraft in calendar year 2017, he added. It also expects to receive three larger A330 jets in 2017.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies