An Airbus A321 airliner landed in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Thursday 14:46 p.m. A ceremony was held to mark the first jet Iran received as part of a total of 200 planes the country has ordered from western planemakers, following the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.
Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi, Iran Air CEO Farhad Parvaresh and Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier praised the delivery in Tehran.
“The landing implies that Iran is eager to establish peace and security based on a win-win policy,” Akhoundi was quoted as saying by ILNA.
“The delivery symbolizes the beginning of a new era in Iran’s aviation industry and the return of the country to the international scene.”
Iran Air flies one of the world’s oldest fleets, with an average age of 23 years, and has had to rely on smuggled or improvised parts under the sanctions to keep them operational.
Before this delivery, Iran had not directly purchased a western-built plane in nearly 40 years. However, it recently ordered 100 airliners from Airbus and 80 from Boeing and is close to a deal to buy 20 turboprop aircraft from Toulouse-based ATR, which is jointly owned by Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo Finmeccanica.
The one exception was the sale of a plane to replace an Airbus jet shot down by the US Navy in 1988, Reuters reported.
The new Airbus A321 was formally handed over to Iran Air on Wednesday evening, in the European company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France, after final technical tests were carried out in Hamburg, Germany, where the jet was assembled.
“Today is a great day for this company (Iran Air) and for relations between Iran and the European Union,” Parvaresh said in Toulouse on Wednesday.
Airbus is a European group owned by France (10.93%), Germany (10.91%) and Spain (4.12%) with production sites in France (around 21,000 employees), Germany (around 17,000 employees) and other countries, according to the German Embassy in Tehran.
Airbus Group SE (2000-13 EADS) is a Dutch company listed on the stock exchanges of all the shareholder states. SE stands for Societas Europea, a stock corporation under European law.
German CEO of Airbus Group SE Thomas Enders was present at the handover ceremony in Toulouse, together with Bregier, who is also the chief operating officer of the parent company.
Airbus stakeholder countries, along with the UK, were represented in the Thursday ceremony at the embassy level.
Addressing the ceremony, Bregier thanked “the governments of France, Germany, Britain and Spain for their support” in finalizing the contract with Iran.
Airbus stands to benefit from the deal it clinched on the final days of 2016.
According to Bregier, the deal accounts for one-seventh of the firm orders the planemaker received in 2016.
The European company has officially booked Iran Air contract as part of a surge in new orders at the end of last year. It won 731 net aircraft orders in 2016, including 321 in December alone. This allowed it to beat American planemaker Boeing in the race for new orders.
The Fruit of JCPOA
The arrival of the Airbus A321 on Thursday comes just over a week before the January 20 inauguration of US president-elect Donald Trump, who is opposed to the nuclear deal struck by western powers and Tehran in 2015, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which saw the removal of sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on the country’s nuclear program.
Republicans in the US Congress have also objected to the pact, which was signed by the United States, Britain, Russia, France, China, Germany and Iran.
The Thursday delivery is also considered a great success for President Hassan Rouhani and his diplomatic team, dealing a blow to those who have been criticizing the nuclear deal for what they perceive as lack of tangible economic benefits since sanctions were lifted.
“This delivery was very crucial ... especially the timing of it. Now people can see the result of sanctions removal,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“It will increase Rouhani’s popularity ... and his chances for reelection in May.”
Parvaresh said in France on Wednesday upon taking delivery of the Airbus plane that he hopes the United States would not block the agreement.
Both Airbus and Boeing need US export licenses to deliver the jets because of using US parts.
Both have received licenses but some need to be extended due to the lengthy delivery period and analysts expect Boeing to point to the Airbus delivery to argue its deal should go ahead.
“Everything has been done according to the international regulations and rules up to now. We hope that nothing special happens to end this contract,” Parvaresh told reporters on Wednesday.
Iran Air hopes to receive at least two more aircraft from Airbus by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2017).
Akhoundi said Iran will receive nine other planes from the European company, including A321 and A330 models, by the end of next year.