Iran’s Airline Mass Exodus: Aegean the latest to leave

Amid the return of US sanctions to Iran, a continuous stream of international airlines have either axed, or announced the upcoming cancellation of flight routes to Iran.

So far, British Airways, Air France and KLM are set to withdraw from Iran later this month, while Air Astana, Thai Airways, Etihad Airways, and Air Asia X have already axed their Iranian routes.

Flying over Iran — Copyright Alex Macheras

This week, Greece’s main carrier, Aegean Airlines has become the latest carrier to announce the cancellation of their Tehran route, citing the ‘negative outlook’ for Iran.

The Star Alliance airline will end their Athens–Tehran route on October 11, around two weeks after British Airways, Air France & KLM axe their Tehran flights.

The Rush To Withdraw

In early May, President of United States, Donald Trump announced the return of sanctions to Iran, eliminating the prospect of future business with the Islamic Republic, and leaving the next move to businesses, including airlines.

In August, Trump threatened:

While such rhetoric has sent all future forecasts of Iran’s economy tumbling, it’s given a clear ultimatum to airlines, many of whom are flag carriers. The true significance of an airline ‘flag carrying’ is often thrown into the spotlight when diplomatic relations take a turn for the worst. It’s reflected in how, just last month, Saudi Arabia announced the immediate closure of all Saudi-Canadian flight routes for national airline SAUDIA. The airline was forced to close operations in Canada after Riyadh’s ‘anger’ at the Canadian ministry’s decision to tweet Canada’s “disappointment of Saudi’s ongoing lack of human rights.”

Flag carrying airlines are often among the biggest overseas ambassador for its respective country. If anyone has ever been to Sydney Airport (Australia) and seen a British Airways 777 parked up on a sunny day, with its large, bright Union Jack tail…you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Governments who need to maintain stable relations with the US cannot have their airlines ‘cozying up’ to Iran’, with daily flights or ‘seamless connections.’

While the US sanctions on Iran have commenced an economic downturn in the country, it’s reduced international business demand to ‘virtually zero’ — and the carriers that are continuing to fly to Iran note that the majority of their total load factor per flight consists of only passengers in the ‘VFR’ market, visiting friends/relatives.

Final Thought

For now, the handful of airlines left flying to Iran will continue do so. Among them: Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Austrian Airlines, and Kuwait Airways say they haven’t any scheduled plans for their Tehran services, a statement provided at a time where Trump remains relatively ‘quiet’ on his ‘business with Iran’ threats. Nevertheless, should the President double-down on his ‘Anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States’ statement’ — the complexities will multiply, and we can expect more airlines withdraw from Iran.

Has Iran’s airline ‘mass-exodus’ affected your travel?

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