There has been much speculation since the embargo against Iran was partly lifted, as to whether, and with whom Iran Air would place orders with for new aircraft.
The national carrier has suffered during the past years as spares for their existing fleet of very old aircraft, became scarce.
Now it looks like Iran Air could well become a carrier to reckon with in the Gulf region.
New orders bring a massive increase in capacity
The list of new aircraft on order from Airbus and Boeing is long.
Even if only 70%-80% of these aircraft are actually delivered, this gives Iran Air a global reach for both the passenger and cargo business.
Traffic rights have been a problem in the past as the carrier was embargoed by some countries and also just did not have the capacity to open routes.
This, providing that the USA does not do a policy “turn-about” with the new administration, has now changed the future role Iran Air could play in the Middle East.
The Iranian national carrier is not the only one operating in Iran. There are others which until now have concentrated on regional passenger and even cargo routes.
Whether they will be allowed to develop further and even internationally remains to be seen.
Airbus takes the lead role
The Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer is very happy with Iran Air’s firm order which was signed in Tehran on December 22nd.
The order entails Iran Air taking a total of 100 aircraft from an initial commitment of 118.
The company, quite wisely so, has not taken up their option for 12 Airbus A380 types as they do not see a mid-life market for this massive aircraft.
Instead, they’ve opted for thirty-eight A330 and sixteen A350 XWB long range versions along with forty-six A320/A321 medium haul aircraft.
The first A321 for Iran Air is already in the paint shop and Airbus has stated that it will deliver seven aircraft to Iran Air in 2017.
Boeing has followed Airbus by confirming in December that as of 2018 it will start to deliver the first of an 80 aircraft order. Fifteen B777-300(ERs), another fifteen B787-9s and up to fifty B737 MAX 8s.
This order remains firm and Boeing can only hope that the future U.S. administration does not torpedo it in any way.
Is IR to become a new cargo player?
It certainly looks that way when one considers that by 2020 the Iranian carrier will be at best operating a total of almost 75 long-range aircraft which offer optimal belly capacity.
The carrier will need to market the belly holds well in order to assure additional revenue on long-haul routes.
Does this then mean that Iran Air will now speed up looking for an optimal cargo alliance?
They will need to tie-in with carriers which can run alongside them thereby giving IR the chance to develop its own cargo business.
The airport infrastructure in Iran also needs a complete revamp. This is especially the case for cargo handling facilities.
Iran sits right next door to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha - all of which have established themselves as serious air cargo hubs and also operate large modern wide-body fleets.
Is there space in the future in the region for an Iran Air which is also operating with enormous belly capacity?
John Mc Donagh