Jan 16 Iran has agreed to buy 114 civil aircraft from European aircraft maker Airbus, the transport minister was quoted as saying on Saturday, ahead of the anticipated lifting of international sanctions on Iran.
“We have taken the first step in agreeing with Airbus to buy 114 planes,” Abbas Akhoondi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.
Airbus said it was not engaging in commercial talks with Iran until sanctions had been lifted. Sanctions were expected to be lifted later on Saturday, as diplomats gathered in Vienna and Iran said it had freed four U.S. citizens from jail.
“Although Iran clearly has a need for new aircraft, we must conform strictly to the law and, until all measures concerning the embargo are lifted, no commercial discussions can take place,” a spokesman said.
Iran has agreed to buy 114 Airbus Group SE aircraft for state carrier Iran Air, Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi said before the long-awaited lifting of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The deal includes a mix of new and used jets from the A320 and A340 families, an Iranian official said, declining to be named as the details are private. The A340 is no longer in production. The purchases are expected to be completed after the sanctions lift, with the first deliveries due as early as July, he said.
The agreement comes as diplomats including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Vienna to announce that Iran has fulfilled its commitments under July’s nuclear accord with world powers. Economic sanctions related to the nuclear program will be lifted after the announcement, Zarif said. That will pave the way for Iran to purchase sorely needed aircraft to renew an aging fleet, feed domestic demand at its 50 airports in a nation of 80 million people and expand international flying.
Airbus declined to comment on any discussions with Iran Air.
“When the Iran sanctions are lifted, Airbus Group is ready to support Iranian civil and para-public transportation sector development in strict compliance with all international laws (US, EU and UN sanctions and embargoes),” a spokeswoman for Toulouse, France-based Airbus said in an e-mailed statement. Para-public transportation refers to helicopters used by police and border-control agencies.
Iran also is interested in Airbus wide-body planes including A350s and the A380 double-decker as it seeks to add destinations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe to directly serve the Iranian population scattered there rather than connecting through Dubai or Istanbul hubs, the official said.
Iran is also considering the Boeing Co. 737 narrow-body jet to serve the domestic market and twin-aisle 777s for long-haul routes, the official said. It’s also looking at smaller planes from Bombardier Inc. and Embraer SA. A Bombardier spokeswoman couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. The Embraer press office said the company will be ready for discussions when sanctions are lifted.
Iran raised its requirement for aircraft to at least 581 planes over the next decade, up from an earlier estimate of 400, according to the state-run Mehr news agency, citing Maqsoud As’adi-Samani, secretary of the Association of Iranian Airlines.
“In theory the economic fundamentals in Iran should support the ability to absorb 300 aircraft over the next five years, but it is another question as to whether that is feasible in practice,” Binit Somaia, South Asia director at researcher CAPA Centre for Aviation, said in an e-mail. “Such a rate of growth would place immense pressure on airport and airspace infrastructure as well as management and technical skills even in mature markets. But it will be particularly challenging for Iran as the aviation ecosystem will need to adapt to a generational leap forward in aircraft technology.”