Iran’s Aviation Shopping Spree

Iran Air A300B4-605R EP-IBA, Amsterdam Schiphol, 2015-03-08 by Roel Hemkes via Flickr cc

I think that Iran must have been holding the winning ticket on that $1.5 billion PowerBall jackpot a couple weeks back. That’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for the random shopping spree the country’s Transportation Ministry seems to be on these days. While nothing is a firm deal yet there have been plenty of announcements, and the numbers are, well, inconceivable. I get that the country hasn’t been able to purchase much in he way of new aircraft for decades; there is no doubt that a significant upgrade to the fleet is needed. But, well, some of the rumored details make so very little sense.

Iran Air A300B4-605R EP-IBA, Amsterdam Schiphol, 2015-03-08 by Roel Hemkes via Flickr cc
Iran Air A300B4-605R EP-IBA, Amsterdam Schiphol, 2015-03-08 by Roel Hemkes via Flickr cc

The latest version of the news has the country buying 127 aircraft from Airbus for flag carrier Iran Air. Some new and some used which makes sense given that there is, theoretically, some sort of budget to stick with. But the breakdown on what is coming in is crazy. With 16 A350s rumored as part of the deal Iran Air would be in the top 20 of operators for the type. And the used A340-300s make sense given they can be delivered quickly. Some A320s for domestic and regional flying make sense and some A330s for longer-haul operations would be good as well. But then the A380 comes into the mix and I have no idea what the heck is going on.

Read More: CAPA Iran Aviation Summit 2016: Iran announces Airbus and ATR order plans

Maybe Airbus is just throwing them on the cheap to keep the line running. Maybe the lifting of sanctions will suddenly see a massive increase in passenger flow in and out of the country. Neither seems entirely likely, even as experts predict a doubling of travel. That’s a big number but is nowhere close to justifying 16 A350s and 8 A380s for the country. Plus ATRs and maybe a CSeries or MRJ or something else, too. Lots and lots of potential buying to happen. Just need to figure out what of it is real.

But, hey, it’ll be fun to watch that fleet modernize and grow. Though if you’re interested in catching a ride on some of the (barely maintained) classics time would seem to be running short.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Airbus may be throwing a bone –
    There are 3 incomplete A380s for bankrupt Skymark. ANA is taking the 3 completed planes as a part of their deal to acquire the assets of Skymark. As long as Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, those 6 may never be delivered to Virgin. Then there is Amedeo (formerly Doric) Leasing which after two years, has yet to find a leasing customer for their A380’s. So there you have it, 29 questionable deliveries on the order A380 order book.

    1. Is Airbus really that desperate though? It claims that the product is profitable at this point and eventually the orders are going to dry up. I suppose this keeps the line running between Emirates deliveries for a few extra months but that’s quite a stretch in justifying a move like this. No doubt the deal could have been sealed without the A380s.

  2. Capital access.

    Is it possible that this project has been in the works for years and was put on hold when the banking sanctions went into effect? Could this have even been a bargaining chip in negotiations with France for their support?

    1. Sure, though I wonder just how they have so much capital available to spend. Oil, yeah, but the value of that asset has dropped precipitously lately.

  3. Please do not sound like you are an expert in foreign policies, economic policies etc.
    Stick to blogging (writing airline and hotel reviews). You have no insight into any country’s finances, goals or ambitions.

  4. As I said on twitter the other day as you have said yourself Seth. Nothing is firm yet and I don’t believe a word the Iranians say I am sure this is window dressing. 8 A380s that is a huge number of extra seats for a country like Iran. The money? I am sure they can borrow that but filling those A380s with Pax I think not

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