Iran inks deal to buy 80 Boe­ing planes

Tehran seeks to re­vamp age­ing fleet

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

TEHRAN: Iran Air fi­nal­ized a con­tract to buy 80 planes from Boe­ing, the US aero­space firm con­firmed yes­ter­day, as it seeks to re­new its age­ing fleet de­spite sanc­tions.

Boe­ing said the con­tract-Iran’s first deal with a US avi­a­tion firm since the 1979 Is­lamic rev­o­lu­tion-was worth $16.6 bil­lion (15.7 bil­lion eu­ros). “Fifty of the planes are 737 and the other 30 are the long haul 777 that will be de­liv­ered to Iran Air in a pe­riod of 10 years,” said Farhad Par­varesh, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the na­tional carrier, who signed the con­tract with Boe­ing of­fi­cials in Tehran. With the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of US pres­i­dent-elect Donald Trump ex­pected to take a tough line on Iran and Amer­i­can law­mak­ers re­cently vot­ing for re­newed sanc­tions, Boe­ing em­pha­sized the em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties of the deal.

“To­day’s agree­ment will sup­port tens of thou­sands of US jobs di­rectly as­so­ci­ated with pro­duc­tion and de­liv­ery of the 777-300ERs and nearly 100,000 US jobs in the US aero­space value stream for the full course of de­liv­er­ies,” the com­pany said in a state­ment. Many US law­mak­ers have op­posed the deal, ac­cus­ing Iran Air of help­ing to trans­port troops and weapons to con­flict zones around the re­gion.

The lack of new planes and parts has taken a se­vere toll on Iran’s car­ri­ers over the years, earn­ing it one of the worst safety records in the world with close to 1,700 peo­ple dy­ing in a string of civil­ian and mil­i­tary air dis­as­ters since 1979, ac­cord­ing to the Flight Safety Foun­da­tion.

“With the sign­ing of this con­tract, the first im­por­tant step has been taken for the mod­ern­iza­tion of the coun­try’s avi­a­tion fleet,” Trans­port Min­is­ter Ab­bas Akhoundi was quoted as say­ing. The first Boe­ings are due to ar­rive in 2018 and Iran Air is also due to fi­nal­ize the pur­chase of 100 planes from Euro­pean firm Air­bus.

“Our goal is to in­crease our abil­ity to com­pete in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try to be able to get back our share in the trans­port in­dus­try in the re­gion and the world,” said Akhoundi, re­fer­ring to the fact that Iran was a re­gional hub for air trans­port be­fore the rev­o­lu­tion.

Sanc­tions pres­sure

Fol­low­ing ini­tial agree­ments ear­lier in the year, the Boe­ing and Air­bus deals were given fi­nal ap­proval by the US govern­ment in Septem­ber. Wash­ing­ton lifted some of its sanc­tions on Iran un­der a nu­clear deal that came into force in Jan­uary, but many re­stric­tions have re­mained in place that mean com­pa­nies trad­ing with Tehran must re­ceive ex­plicit ap­proval from the US Trea­sury.

That in­cludes Euro­pean firms like Air­bus who man­u­fac­ture some of their parts in the United States.

Pres­sure has been mount­ing on those in Iran and the United States who want to see in­creased trade be­tween the two coun­tries in or­der to ce­ment the nu­clear deal. Ira­nian lead­ers have re­acted an­grily to news that Wash­ing­ton will re­new its ex­ist­ing sanc­tions in the com­ing days, say­ing it is a breach of the deal, while Trump has vowed to rip up the ac­cord en­tirely. Iran’s Pres­i­dent Hassan Rouhani has faced a bar­rage of crit­i­cism at home af­ter the deal failed to at­tract the level of foreign in­vest­ment he promised-mostly be­cause global banks re­main wary of do­ing busi­ness with the coun­try. The supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, has ques­tioned the fo­cus on pur­chas­ing bil­lion-dol­lar fleets of air­craft.

“Sup­pose we mod­ern­ize our air fleet. Okay, it’s a very im­por­tant and nec­es­sary move. But is it the pri­or­ity?” Khamenei said in June.

—AFP

TEHRAN: Farhad Par­varesh (left), Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Iran Air, and Fletcher Bark­dull, Boe­ing re­gional di­rec­tor, sign an agree­ment in the pres­ence of Ab­bas Ah­mad Akhoundi (cen­ter), Min­is­ter of Roads and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, in the cap­i­tal Tehran yes­ter­day.

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