Economy, Domestic Economy

Boeing Offers New Aircraft, Services

Boeing Offers New  Aircraft, Services
Boeing Offers New  Aircraft, Services

American planemaker Boeing discussed jetliner sales and maintenance services with seven Iranian airlines during a two-day visit to Tehran, according to the secretary of the Association of Iranian Airlines.

“The company’s executives have offered new series of 737, 777 and 787 planes,” Maqsoud As’adi Samani was also quoted as saying by IRNA.

He said the visiting Boeing team included the company's regional sales, services and finance executives who discussed "ways of cooperation” with Iran Air and other carriers regarding “support for the planes currently in use in Iran’s air fleet” through supply of parts, manuals and other services.

There are roughly 280 planes flown by more than a dozen airlines in Iran. The Islamic Republic’s fleet comprises 60 Boeings, including 747s that predate the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Many of Iran’s Boeings are grounded because of mechanical and other issues.

According to Samani, 48 Boeings are in operation in Iran, including McDonnell Douglas, 747s, 737s, 727s and 757s, which account for 32% of the country's air fleet.

“We discussed the support we provide to operators of Boeing commercial airplanes as well as passenger airplane payloads, range, cabin configurations, fuel economy and flight deck systems,” Boeing’s spokesman, John Dern, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg in an email statement.

Dern added that the meeting with Iranian officials enabled the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer “to better understand the status of their current fleets, their route structures and their plans for future operations”.

The average age of Iran’s commercial airplanes exceeds 20 years and many are considered dangerously outdated, mainly as a result of western sanctions that severely limited Iran’s ability to replenish and maintain its civilian fleet.

Removal of sanctions in January as part of a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers sealed last year in July paved the way for Iran to make an economic comeback to international arena and meet part of its aviation needs by striking a historic deal with French giant Airbus—Boeing's arch-rival.

The Airbus accord—valued at $25-27 billion, according to list prices—covers 45 single-aisle planes comprising 21 from the current-generation A320 family and 24 re-engined A320neos. The 73 wide-body aircraft ordered include 27 A330s, 18 A330neos, 16 of Airbus’s latest A350s–in the stretched-1000 variant–plus the A380s.

The American plane manufacturer was barred by the US government’s sanction regulations from selling aircraft to Iran. However, while Boeing has lagged behind in the newly-opened Iranian market, Iran has repeatedly hinted that it is interested in making deals with the US planemaker.

Iranian aviation officials have said they would like to purchase an equal number of Boeing and Airbus planes.

Deputy transport minister Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan earlier said Iran is interested in Boeing 737s, one of the world’s most widely used jetliners.

Talks with Boeing entered a more serious phase when Roads Minister Abbas Akhoundi said Iran invited the company for talks “after the US administration sent signals to Boeing regarding the removal of aviation sanctions”.

The company said in February that the US government allowed it to begin talks with approved Iranian carriers about their fleet needs.

The planemaker has yet to acquire a separate license to complete any sales of commercial jetliners.

Dern said in its statement that Boeing “closely coordinated” the meetings with the US government.

“Should any agreements be reached at some future point, they would be contingent on the approval of the US government,” he said.

Deputy spokesperson at the US Department of State Mark C. Toner confirmed in a press briefing on Monday that the US was aware of the Boeing executives’ Iran trip.

“In general, the US, as part of the JCPOA, is committed to license three limited categories of activity that would otherwise be prohibited … one of those things includes the licensing of sale to Iran of commercial passenger aircraft,” he said.

“We have seen a number of major companies make plans to take advantage of new commercial opportunities afforded by the JCPOA, and we’re not going to stand in the way of these companies conducting what we view of permissible business under the JCPOA.”

Despite the engagement with Boeing, Iran largely remains off limits commercially to American businesses because many other sanctions unrelated to Tehran’s nuclear program remain in effect, most notably a wide-ranging embargo on direct trade in many goods and services.

With some exceptions, American banks are still being made to avoid dealings with Iran. That will make financing a major issue in any Boeing-Iran transaction. The US Export-Import Bank is not allowed to make financial guarantees for any sales to Iran.

Samani, however, said Boeing’s sale proposals include “financing though international resources” and the company “has pledged to receive permits required to expand cooperation with Iranian companies from the US Treasury Department”.

The American planemaker aside, Iranian airlines have been proceeding with other new plane purchases as well. Iran’s Kish Air—operating in southern tourism and commercial hub of Kish Island—recently had its two secondhand Airbus planes delivered.

Also, 16 new passenger jetliners will enter Iran’s fleet by the end of 2017, according to the head of Iran Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzadeh.