How new airplanes impact Iran’s commercial flights market

Financial Tribune | Sepehr Arefmanesh: Since the lifting of anti-Iran sanctions on January 2016, as part of the deal it signed with six powers, 11 new planes have joined Iran Air’s fleet.

The impact of the long-awaited move was not merely limited to the flag carrier’s performance, as it affected the whole commercial flights sector.

As per data released by Iranian Airport Company, Iranian airports transported 61.5 million passengersduring the previous fiscal year (ended March 20, 2018), marking a 7% growth compared with the same period of last year.

Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport was the busiest domestic airport during the period with 17.45 million passengers, followed by Mashhad International Airport (10.5 million) and Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport (8.97 million).

Currently, 54 airports are operating in the country, many of which are either small-scale or located in less developed areas. This makes them infeasible for a majority of domestic carriers.

Iran Air’s eight brand-new ATR turboprops took the flag carrier back to small airports.

The country started new flights in various airports in recent months, including Khorramabad in Lorestan and Arak in Markazi Province, as well as Ardabil, Ramsar, Sari, Rasht, Noshahr, Gorgan and Kalaleh in northern provinces.

Passenger traffic in these airports grew significantly during the last fiscal year. An 84% growth for Ramsar, as well as a 68%, 58% and 45% surge in traffic at Khorramabad, Noshahr and Arak airports respectively, was achieved by operating the new turboprops.

Airports located in Semnan city and Shahroud in Semnan Province, Parsabad in Ardabil Province, Iranshahr in Sistan-Baluchestan and Jiroft in Kerman Province had recorded zero flights in the past few years. However, they again hosted commercial flights in the last fiscal year, thanks to the regional planes’ entry.

It has also designated one of its turboprops in Bandar Abbas to operate short flights to neighboring provinces under the title of Iran Air Regional. The measure led to a 15% growth in Bandar Abbas Port’s passenger traffic.

Destinations of Iran Air Regional flights also experienced a considerable increase in passenger traffic–95% for Abu Musa Island, 24% for Chabahar Port and 10% for Zahedan.

Iran Air’s rapid success in increasing its share of provincial flights prompted other airliners to take a closer look at this market niche.

Mahan Air and ATA Airlines have both boosted their short domestic flights last year. Expanding its BAE fleet, Mahan has managed to keep up with the flag carrier in terms of operating regional flights. Mahan’s regional feet operated a record number of 55 flights per day.

Tabriz-based ATA Airlines has also purchased 15 secondhand Embraer 145 jets to expand its regional flights. So far, it has started flights to Zabol, Birjand, Sabzevar, Yasouj, Khoy, Kashan and Hamedan cities.

The flag carrier is also set to take delivery of its ninth and 10th ATR 72-600 turboprops in May. The remaining nine planes were earlier set to be delivered by the end of the year.

The Franco-Italian planemaker has made no statement regarding the impact of the US administration’s pullout from the nuclear deal and the future of its contracts with Iran Air.