Iranian Airlines Rising to Foreign Challenges

Iranian Airlines Rising to Foreign ChallengesIranian Airlines Rising to Foreign Challenges

Iranian airlines have endured a tough time against foreign competition in recent years.

The combination of low-quality airports and underequipped airlines has tipped the scales in favor of the 32 foreign airlines that offer flights to and from Iran’s international airports, Eghtesad News reported.

The Iranian market has proven to be highly lucrative for foreign airlines, as it generates $3 billion a year in revenues for them.

Using foreign airlines to travel outside Iran is not trouble-free: Having to switch flights, enduring long transits, paying hefty ticket fees and making do with restrictive luggage weight limits are all problematic.

Yet, Iranians prefer traveling with foreign airlines to their domestic counterparts.

  Flight Frequency and Other Issues

The main reason behind the popularity of foreign airlines is their flight frequency. Iranian airlines have one or at most two flights a week to popular destinations.

Take for example, Milan. Iran Air operates one flight every week from Tehran to Milan and back. As thousands of Iranians study in Italy, it is clear that one flight a week during the summer holidays cannot meet the demand.

Even when Mahan Air began operating two flights a week to Milan, tickets during the peak holiday season are still hard to come by.

Another reason is the origin of Iranian flights. With the exception of flights heading toward Dubai, UAE, and a number of cities in Iraq and Turkey, all other international flights operated by Iranian airlines take off from Imam Khomeini International Airport, located 30 km southwest of Tehran.

This is while foreign airlines operate from other cities across Iran. For example, those who want to travel to Milan can depart from Shiraz, Isfahan or Tehran via Turkish Air, although they may need to endure eight to 12 hours of transit.

Many Iranians living in cities other than Tehran are willing to use domestic airlines to travel abroad, as long as traveling to and from Tehran is convenient—which it is not.

International flights depart from IKIA, while domestic flights operate out of Mehrabad Airport, which is located near Tehran’s city center. What this means is that people have to fly to Tehran, before traveling 30 km through Tehran’s infamous traffic to reach IKIA. That is time-consuming, uncomfortable and inconvenient.

  Tackling the Issues

To solve this problem, either the two airports have to be linked via Tehran’s extensive subway network, or IKIA has to start receiving a small number of domestic flights.

The rivalry between domestic and foreign airlines can hardly be labeled fair competition, since Iranian companies do not have the means to compete at such a high level, yet.

Once western-imposed sanctions are lifted, Iran plans to buy a total of 80-90 airplanes a year from American planemaker Boeing and its France-based counterpart Airbus in the first phase of renovating its aging air fleet. This will not only help increase the frequency of flights to and from Iran, but also allow domestic airlines to offer direct flights to more distant destinations.

Experts firmly believe that the lifting of sanctions is not enough to empower Iranian airlines. The government must support domestic airlines by providing low-interest loans to help the industry and, by extension, the economy grow.