With sanctions having been dropped against Iran earlier this month, it was widely reported earlier in the week/last week that high on Iran’s shopping list was new Airbus jets to replace their old aircraft that they have been operating for many years. Today, Iran state TV said that the plans were finalized with Airbus and they will be sending over 100 new planes to Iran within the next 4 years.
Iran & Airbus Strike Deal To Bring Over 100 New Planes To Iran
Flying In & Out Of Iran
When I visited Iran a couple of years ago, I flew in to Shiraz and out of Tehran on Turkish Airlines. I had tried to fly out on Atlas (an airline based in Turkey) but because of the sanctions and the point of sale for the ticket, I was unable to purchase the ticket as departing from Iran so ended up sticking with Turkish all the way.
While I did not fly Iran Air, I had heard from many in the country how incredibly cheap it was to actually take domestic flights while at the same time assuring me it was completely safe. Iran has not been without their airplane accidents over the years as they dealt with aging planes and parts. Now with this new deal, it looks like Iran Air will be getting a significant upgrade to their aircraft stable.
An Iran Air A380?
On the list originally talked about was 8 of the Airbus A380 double-decker planes. I am a big fan of that aircraft and just find it a fascinating plane (especially in the premium cabins!) and it should be interesting to see what Iran does with it to put their mark on it.
While there will be many business people over the next several years making their way to Iran for the contracts that appear to be headed that way, many people in Iran still do not make that much money when compared to their neighboring countries. I am not sure if there would be a local market for high-end premium cabins like UAE-based Emirates and Etihad have done with their version of the A380 but we shall see. In any event, though the original talk was that used planes might be a part of the agreement, Iran’s state TV said that the contract was for all new planes.
What Is Tehran’s International Airport Like?
With flights from many European carriers resuming to Iran later this year (there are current carriers already flying there, like Aegean Airlines), there may be some of you will be thinking about visiting this nation.
When I went, I was fascinated by the history of the country. I thoroughly enjoyed my time visiting places that have not been seen by many Americans in the last few decades (estimates were that fewer than 1,500 Americans per year visited Iran). I also enjoyed talking with shop owners and people on the street. Whenever people heard me speaking in English, they would come over and ask if I was American which would be followed by a shaking of hands and often a photo. It was certainly different than many might think!
The food was delicious as well. Not only was it very good and full of flavor, it was also incredibly cheap. We would eat meals that had our plates loaded with food and a soft drink – and the bill would be around $1.50 or less! We went to many places that were favorites with the locals and you could see how much they enjoyed what the restaurants had to offer as well.
When I landed, it was at the airport in Shiraz. It was interesting when we were preparing for landing as the women onboard the plane put on their hijabs to be in accordance with the regulations of the land. When we came into the airport terminal, it was quite on the plain side (though that can often be the case with the arrivals area in some smaller airports, especially in Europe). We had to stand in a long line for passport control and an officer went through the line checking the nationality of everyone. When he got to me, he shouted out “American” in Farsi and everything got really quiet! I was told to go sit down in a chair and wait. After everyone else was processed, I was taken over to a small area where I was fingerprinted and asked several questions. When that was done, I exited and found my guide and driver and we were off!
Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport
My tour took us by road throughout the country so I departed out of Tehran’s international airport, IKA. It is a short drive out of the city and I was curious to see what it was like (it was built a few years ago to replace an airport that is in the city and now treated like a domestic airport).
The airport itself is actually much more modern than I would have thought. The check-in area, though the machines were quite old, was very similar to other airports in the region like Cairo. When it came time to go through security and passport control, this was also very easy (it was the middle of the night, though!) and quick. The passport control stations are setup similar to places like Abu Dhabi where it is almost like ticket stations at a ballpark.
Once inside, there are some concession areas and a bunch of seating. The main part of the terminal has a lot of electronics on display, including my first sighting of an enormous TV (if I remember, it was something like a 4K 80″, curved-LED LG – brand new and unreleased at the time). The terminal has that glistening, new look to it that really shows itself off as a serious international airport.
The seating areas were a bit crowded but comfortable enough. To my knowledge, there was not a Star Alliance lounge there (though that will likely change when more airlines resume flights there) but my couple of hours waiting at the airport were not unpleasant.
All in all, it was much more modern than I would have thought and very similar to other, large Middle Eastern airports. Will it change a bit with the influx of different carriers? Possibly. I do know that I had a bunch of problems with getting my ticket even though I was already checked-in. They had a big problem printing it and they kept going to talk to a supervisor but it was difficult because it was not Turkish Airlines staff so I really did not have any recourse.
At first they did not think I would be able to leave on that flight (which can be a problem when your visa expires that day!) but finally were able to do it. If you do go there, make sure you plan a little bit of extra time for any check-in or ticketing issues which will undoubtedly occur as there are some growing pains that will likely happen.
Airbus has to be happy about this order, especially if it contains A380s (which it was said it would) since the popularity of that fantastic plane had gone down. From an aircraft side, I certainly am curious to see what this plane will look like on the inside. Always interesting to see what an airline decides to do!
I understand that the issues with Iran and the sanctions are issues with strong opinions and political angles. But, this post is about an airline deal and my visit to Iran and the airports there – please try to keep comments related to these issues and away from the political ones! Thanks! 🙂