Iran to land first Airbus jet soon under new pact
Iran expects to get its first new jet within weeks under a multi-billion-dollar deal with Airbus for 100 planes, a senior official said yesterday, as Tehran and Western firms race to reopen trade almost a year after sanctions were lifted. The first of the Airbus jets should be delivered in mid-January, part of plans to buy or lease 200 planes to renew IranAir’s decaying fleet, against a backdrop of conservative criticism in both Washington and Tehran of last year’s international sanctions deal to allow such business.
Sanctions were lifted in January but were followed by months of regulatory delays, and Iran has only just finalised a deal to buy 80 jets from Airbus’ US rival Boeing. “We have finalised negotiations with Airbus and any day we will be able to sign the deal in Tehran,” Deputy Roads and Urban Development Minister Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We are expecting some final clearances and expect to sign today or tomorrow.” The first Airbus A321 could arrive before the Jan. 20 inauguration of USPresident-elect Donald Trump, who has opposed the deal to lift most sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, and well ahead of Iranian presidential elections in May next year.
That could provide a boost to the government of President Hassan Rouhani and allow Airbus to find a home for some jets abandoned or deferred by other customers due to economic problems in South America and elsewhere, analysts say. Airbus, which has revised up its forecasts for Iranian domestic demand, said it was still negotiating the IranAir deal. The airline sees itself as a future rival to Gulf-based super-carriers due to its geographical position.
Initial plans to buy a dozen A380 superjumbos were dropped after criticism from Iranian hardliners. Kashan said the deal with Airbus will be split roughly equally between narrow-body jets including the A320 and A321 and widebody jets including the A330 and A350.
Pact ‘violation’ warning
Such deals are also under fire from US Republicans. President Barack Obama’s outgoing administration has granted licences to allow the sales, a step required by both Airbus and Boeing due to the use of US parts, but analysts say completing them depends in part on Washington’s new political climate.
Asked whether either deal could be derailed if Trump imposes new restrictions on trade with Iran, Kashan said: “We are not concerned, although we should not ignore such a possibility. “The fact is that Mr Trump may impose certain new sanctions, but we would consider that to be a violation of the JCPOA (nuclear accord), which explicitly provides for the possibility for the purchase of aircraft and their sale by manufacturers.” — Reuters