People, Travel

US-Iran Direct Flights in Doubt

US-Iran Direct Flights in DoubtUS-Iran Direct Flights in Doubt

A senior minister says Tehran and Washington are in talks to resume direct flights after a 36-year hiatus, Iranian media reported.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the CAPA Iran Aviation Summit in Tehran, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran (CAO) has begun talks with American officials on resuming direct flights between the two countries, Mehr News Agency reported late Monday.

CAO chief Farhad Parvaresh confirmed the news. He told IRNA, “Daily flights to New York used to take place before the (1979) Islamic Revolution, and they will hopefully resume in the near future.”

On Monday, though, the Obama administration denied that such negotiations were underway and downplayed the possibility of opening direct air travel between the two antagonists anytime soon, the American news publication Foreign Policy reported.

“That’s not something we’re considering. There are a number of issues, regulatory and otherwise, that would prevent direct flights between the US and Iran,” said State Department spokesman Sam Werberg. “We’re not aware of any [US government] officials involved in such talks.”

 Iran and the US do not have official ties. Diplomatic relations were severed soon after the revolution when students seized the US Embassy and held 55 diplomats for almost 15 months. The students later published several books with copies of official US diplomatic cables and correspondence that showed in graphic detail that the mission was “in fact a spy den” and involved in undermining the revolution that had put an end to the pro-western Pahlavi dynasty.

Meanwhile, the International Business Times UK reported on Tuesday that British Airways could resume direct flights to Tehran, quoting chief executive of the carrier, Willie Walsh, as saying, “We are very interested in flying to Tehran and we are hopeful that it will form part of BA’s network in the very near future. We are actively looking at it as a destination.”

 Domestic Carriers Struggle

With western nations lifting sanctions worth tens of billions of dollars in exchange for Tehran’s compliance with restrictions on its nuclear program, Iran’s airline industry stands to benefit.

Under the sanctions regime, domestic carriers struggled to secure necessary spare parts and racked up a questionable safety record, due to an aging fleet. But with sanctions lifting, the Iranian airline industry is looking to modernize its fleet and expand service.

French airplane manufacturer Airbus confirmed on Monday that it is opening talks with Iran over the sale of more than 100 jets. The deal is expected to be officially announced on Wednesday when President Hassan Rouhani travels to Paris for a meeting with his French counterpart Francois Hollande.

While Iran has indicated an interest in buying planes from Boeing, Airbus’s American competitor, the Washington-based aerospace giant said earlier this month that “many steps” remain before it can negotiate a deal with Tehran to deliver planes.