Iran Air has announced it will be resuming Tehran to Rome flights following the news that Mahan Air has been banned from Italian airspace. The carrier will continue to operate its Tehran to Milan flights, which provide a vital means of travel for Iranians living abroad in Italy.
On Thursday Iran Air announced it will be resuming flights between the Iranian and Italian capitals on 2 December.
The decision comes in the wake of more bad news for Iran’s second largest carrier, Mahan Air, which was recently banned from Italian airspace.
Why has Mahan Air been banned from Italy?
Iranian airlines have had an increasingly difficult time over recent years with the reinstatement of international sanctions.
In 2011 the US applied sanctions to Mahan Air after accusing it of financing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In the past couple of years, Mahan Air has been a particular target of additional sanctions and restrictions by the US. The US has accused the airline of transporting troops and weapons to conflict areas in the Middle East.
Elsewhere in Europe both France and Germany have already banned Mahan Air from their airspace.
It seems likely that Italy’s recent decision comes as a result of a specific request made by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, during his visit to Italy at the beginning of October.
“Along with their pressure on our country, the Americans have pressed Italy to stop Mahan Air flights to Rome and Milan,” secretary of the Association of Iranian Airlines, Maqsoud Asadi-Samani, told Mehr News Agency.
Iran Air’s new flights
According to reports by Tehran Times, Iran Air has taken on Mahan Air’s Tehran to Rome route as a response to the demands of Iranians living abroad.
The Tehran to Rome flights will commence as of 2 December and will run twice per week, on Mondays and Thursdays.
In addition to the Tehran to Rome route, Iran Air’s Tehran to Milan route will run as normal on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The Iranian aviation industry
Alongside the more immediate sanctions against Iranian airlines, there are many longer-term effects of the country’s worsening relations on the international stage.
In particular, Iranian airlines have had to abandon sizeable orders for new aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus.
When international sanctions were lifted from Iran in January 2016, Iranian airlines ordered 300 new aircraft which were worth many billions of dollars in total.
But sanctions were soon reinstated, meaning Iran’s airline fleets continue to age and deteriorate.
Much like the sanctions on Cuba forced the local population to make do with old cars and motor vehicles, Iran’s airlines are having to make to with old and outdated aircraft.
For example, the Airbus A300, the world’s first widebody, twin-engine passenger jet is now almost exclusively operated in a passenger capacity by Iranian carriers.
The Airbus A300 went out of production in 2007, and many of the examples among the fleets of Mahan Air, Iran Air and other smaller Iranian airlines are more than 30 years old.
It remains to be seen how long these aircraft can be kept flying safely, but the Iranian airlines don’t have much choice as long as sanctions remain in place.