Does Tehran Pose a Threat to Gulf States as a Future Air Freight Hub?

It is hard to believe that Iran may not be interested in operating a new freighter fleet in the future when one sees that already within a short space of time they have placed firm orders with Airbus for 118 passenger aircraft. many of these new planes will be for long haul operations and hence offer considerable belly capacity for cargo.

Tehran Airport at night  -  source: ICAO
Tehran Airport at night - source: ICAO

Tehran as a cargo hub - or not!
If it happens - it won’t be overnight and whether a new long-term cargo hub will appear there still does not mean that Dubai’s or other Gulf states position in that respect would be endangered.
However, the distance between THR and DXB is not far and the Iranian market will see a heavy influx of goods within the coming decade.
This of course depends somewhat on whether the political situation remains steady over the next few years.

Iran is determined to modernize aviation
Geographically, Tehran could be seen as an ideal point for a future air freight hub.
It can be assumed that the Iranian government would not like to see air cargo destined for new building planning and other industrial projects, entering the country via other hubs within the region.
The United Arab Emirates and Iran do not have good relations and there is no indication as to whether this might change in the future.

According to recent reports Iran Air’s plans to invest up to almost US$28 billion in a new aircraft fleet. This is a lot of money, a lot of aircraft and many of which undoubtedly will be freighters.
This investment mirrors those of some of Iran’s neighbors across the other end of the Gulf.
This will all take time as although the trade embargo has been lifted, there are still many regulatory and financial hurdles to be settled before a real upswing in Iranian aviation will take hold.

Own freighters, leased in capacity or joint ventures?
Supposedly, as time marches on, Iran Air and other Iranian carriers would prefer operating their own freighter aircraft.
But, would this make sense from day one?
Leasing in capacity on a wet or dry lease basis may be an ideal solution in the interim period. This however is quite a costly exercise.
Planning joint ventures with other, specifically European or Asian carriers, where a joint-venture or block space agreement can be entered into, may seem more realistic on the cargo side.
Iran Air still has a couple of old freighters, namely a B747-200F and an A300F. These are useless to the carrier as they have been blacklisted from flying with the EU for what was termed as safety reasons. Operating them today would anyhow be a costly affair.

Dubai’s cargo throughput keeps growing
So, new freighters or a good deal with other airlines may seem to be the answer.
Recent press reports show that Lufthansa is busy with trying to tie up a deal with Iran Air for future support. Would this include air cargo as well?

The Gulf States will certainly keep an eye on developments on the other side of the water and would not be happy if a part of the cargo traffic presently transiting DXB, AUH or DOH were to disappear over to THR.

So far, so good, in the Gulf.
Dubai (DXB) saw further air freight growth last year of almost four percent although much of the freighter business has in the meantime moved over to Dubai World Central  Airport (DWC). Combined tonnages for DXB and DWC in 2015 went up by almost five percent to a staggering 3.4 million tonnes.
No reason - yet - for them to get nervous about a possible THR hub.

John Mc Donagh

Write a comment

Comments: 0