Iran to Buy 114 Airbus Jets, May Seek Boeings Post-Sanctions

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The Iranian captain of an Airbus A380-800 holds an Iranian national flag after landing. Photographer: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

  • Purchase includes new, used planes from A320, A340 families
  • A380s, Boeing 777s being considered to serve Iranian diaspora

Iran has agreed to buy 114 Airbus Group SE aircraft for state carrier Iran Air, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said Saturday before international sanctions were lifted on the Islamic Republic.

The deal includes a mix of new and used jets from the A320 family and the out-of-production A340s, an Iranian official said, asking not be identified because the details are private. The first deliveries are due as early as July, he said.

Iran has complied with the terms of an international agreement to curb its nuclear program, clearing the way for sanctions to end, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency said Saturday. 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.

“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 (U.S., 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.

Airbus declined to comment on any discussions with Iran Air.

Wide-Body Planes

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 Iranian 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 for comment outside business hours. The Embraer press office said the company will be ready for discussions when sanctions are lifted.

Bigger Plans

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.”

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