Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Boeing to benefit if US sanctions lifted on Iran

Iran Air would place orders for either the Boeing 777 or the 787 Dreamliner if US sanctions were lifted permanently, chairman Farhad Parvaresh has told Arabian Aerospace.

"If the doors are opened and we can order, we should decide between 777 and Dreamliner," he said on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Doha. "The 777 would be a good aircraft for us, as it is for some of our neighbours [in the Persian Gulf]."

The 747-8 will also be evaluated, although fuel consumption by the four-engine aircraft raises questions about its commercial suitability.

"We have been an operator of the 747 for so long. I am sure our pilots and our engineers would love to have this aircraft," Parvaresh said. "But economically and commercially we have to see. I think 777 or Dreamliner would be a better aircraft than 747-8 for our present network. For the future, maybe 747-8 is possible."

Planes built by European manufacturer Airbus would also likely be ordered, with the chairman describing the A330 as "very suitable and a good aircraft for our network". Among narrowbody types, the A320 and 737-800 are the preferred choices.

Parvaresh said the flag carrier has a requirement for 100 new aircraft split evenly between widebodies and narrowbodies.

Iran Air has one of the oldest fleets in the world due to US sanctions prohibiting the purchase or lease of western-built aircraft. Its fleet currently comprises a mixture of 747s, A300s, A310s, A320s and Fokker 100s.

Temporary sanctions relief implemented by the US government on 20 January has enabled the flag carrier to begin negotiations with Boeing, General Electric and other European companies for provision of spare parts or inspection work.

But the sanctions relief is due to end on 20 July, after which time the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) could again block western firms from commercial dealings with Iranian companies.

"They [America and Iran] are negotiating what will happen after 20 July," Parvaresh explained. "Both parties have mentioned that they are no longer talking about specific areas – the banking sector, airline industry, automobile industry – but instead are discussing lifting all of the sanctions.

"The information that I have is that the talks are going in a positive direction. I think all parties have some opposition – in Iran, in the US, and maybe some in Europe – but in general I think the majority of the people in Iran and the majority in the US are very much hopeful that the talks will end favourably. It is looking positive."

If a deal to fully lift all sanctions cannot be reached by 20 July, then a temporary extension of another six months may be sought instead.

Asked if he thought that Iran's civil aviation sector could be ringfenced from sanctions while talks about other industries continue, Parvaresh said this was an unlikely scenario. "It's like a chain, it's all related together," he insisted. "So it has to be a package."