Economy, Domestic Economy

Akhoundi: No Obligation to Buy Airbus A380

Akhoundi: No Obligation  to Buy Airbus A380Akhoundi: No Obligation  to Buy Airbus A380

Roads and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi said Iran is under no obligation to buy Airbus A380 superjumbo jets.

The order for the double-decker jetliners grabbed attention in January as part of a preliminary deal signed in Paris for 118 Airbus planes worth $27 billion. Iran has also provisionally agreed to buy or lease 109 Boeing jets.

“We have freedom to choose ... We have no obligation and commitment to buy A380 planes,” Akhoundi was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Discussing the Airbus order in February, its chairman told Reuters the A380 would not arrive for another five years and that the airline would in the meantime monitor the expansion of Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

“This is part of a five-year plan for Iran’s aviation ... Iranian official in charge of buying such planes will decide then,” he said.

Citing several unnamed Iranian officials, Reuters reported on Monday, that Tehran was having second thoughts about whether to take delivery of the order for a dozen A380 superjumbo jets.

“We always made clear this is an option,” an Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be identified. “It is possible to switch to other models.”

Another source said Iran was committed to the rest of the order, but was less interested in taking the A380s.

Others said the A380 part of the order, worth $5.2 billion at list prices, can be canceled or amended without penalty under the contract before Airbus starts building the jets.

One industry source acknowledged “the A380 part is less solid” than the remaining 106 aircraft, despite the fact that Airbus had pressed Tehran to include the slow-selling model.

The United States and Europe lifted sanctions in January under a 2015 deal with Tehran to limit its nuclear program, but US sanctions unrelated to the nuclear issue remain, banning dollar transactions with Iran and making it harder for firms to access finance for business in the Islamic Republic.

Iran needs an estimated 400 jets to renew its fleet after decades of sanctions and to prepare for projected growth, according to Iranian and western estimates.

Iran’s order threw a lifeline to the A380 itself, following a slump in orders that has left the future of one of Europe’s highest profile industrial projects in doubt.

While Airbus faces uncertainty over the A380 part of the deal, Boeing appears to have won a slight reprieve for the latest version of its 747 jumbo, which has also been suffering from poor sales.

A person familiar with Boeing’s own provisional deal with Iran Air said it included four 747-8s.

Both the A380 and 747-8 have seen production cuts, as airlines switch to smaller two-engined models like the Airbus A350 or Boeing 777.

But regional sources say Boeing’s 747 has a more naturally receptive audience in Iran, given the experience of its pilots and engineers in keeping old 747s flying during sanctions.