Economy, Domestic Economy

Emirates Seeks to Expand Iran Footprint

Emirates Seeks to Expand Iran FootprintEmirates Seeks to Expand Iran Footprint

Emirates is looking to add more flights to Iran, including to new destinations, Emirati media quoted a senior executive as saying on Tuesday, the day it launched flights to Mashhad, Iran’s second biggest city.

Speaking on board the inaugural flight to Mashhad, Shaikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice-President of Commercial Operations Centre referred to the prospective lifting of western sanctions against Iran over its nuclear energy program following the landmark nuclear accord that was reached between Tehran and major world powers and said: “[This] (the lifting of sanctions) will give us more opportunity to look at other points” and look into increasing capacity on existing routes,” adding that “Iran has huge potential.”

Currently the airline conducts four daily flights to Tehran, and five new weekly flights to Mashhad, its 148th global destination. Under sanctions, Emirates flew half a million passengers to and from Iran in its last financial year that ended March, 2015. This will increase by at least 10% on the Tehran route this year in addition to Mashhad traffic, Shaikh Majid said. “We are very optimistic [now that] the sanctions are going to be lifted,” he said.

The airline has flown 7 million passengers to and from Iran since it first launched flights to Tehran in 1990.

Emirates’ new service to Mashhad brings its total weekly flights to Iran to 33, its limit under the current bilateral agreement between the UAE and Iran. This means Emirates will most likely need to wait for government-to-government talks to expand the bilateral agreement before it can add further flights. “The sooner [a new agreement is reached], the better,” Shaikh Majid said.

Mashhad attracts two million foreigners a year, many Muslim pilgrims from the Arab world, the Indian Subcontintent and Asia.

Shaikh Majid said there is also scope to add an Airbus A380 service to Tehran, where it flies to four times a day usually with a Boeing 777-300ER.

Emirates flew the A380, world’s largest passenger jet, to Tehran last September as a one-off.

Emirates also has high expectations for future trade flows in and out of Iran and may add a dedicated freighter service to the country to meet demand if trade volumes do surge, Khalid Mohammad Al Hinai, Emirates’ Vice-President Cargo Commercial for the Middle East, (P)GCC and Iran, said.

In 2014, bilateral trade between the UAE and Iran was about $26 billion according to UAE Ministry of Economy figures cited by Emirates.