Iran airlines to suspend Najaf flights

Financial Tribune – All Iranian airlines will stop flying to Najaf, Iraq, as of July 1 as a result of recent regulatory changes that make operating flights to Al Najaf International Airport very costly, the secretary of Iran’s Aviation Companies Association announced.

“The authorities have implemented a retrospective customs duty for airlines going back to 2010,” Maqsoud Asadi Samani was also quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.

What this means is that all airlines have to pay $85 for every one of their flights that has landed at the city’s airport from 2010 onward.

“Furthermore, they’re charging Iranian airlines $15 for every seat while passengers have to pay $10 upon arrival,” he added.

To make things even more expensive, Samani said aircraft ground handling costs at Al Najaf International Airport “are four times” the expenses at Iranian airports.

“Jet fuel in Najaf costs $0.98 per gallon, which is also four times it costs us at Iran’s airports,” he said. Iranian airlines have voiced dismay to civil aviation authorities in both Iran and Iraq, and have held talks with aviation officials in both countries, but to no avail.

“They also held talks with the airport officials and filed a formal complaint with the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority,” Samani said. “However, the airport management insists on receiving the money Iranian airlines now owe as a result of the retrospective regulation.”

The holy shrines of Imam Ali (PBUH) in Najaf and his son, Imam Hussein (PBUH) in Karbala, are visited by scores of Iranian pilgrims throughout the year.

“The airport is only increasing the costs of pilgrimage for people,” he said.

Overall, Iranian aviation companies splurge between $14,000 and $18,000 per flight at the Najaf airport, whereas every flight to Iran by Iraq-registered airlines costs the companies $3,000 to $3,500 per flight for aircraft ground handling.

Samani said the flights will be suspended on July 1 until Najaf airport officials review the new regulation.

“They need to realize that this results in higher airfares, which ultimately makes it more expensive for pilgrims to visit the holy shrines,” he said.