Iran-US Direct Flight Still Waiting in Wings
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Months after the idea of direct flights between Iran and the US was mooted, the government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on Wednesday that the issue has not been finalized yet.
This comes as an Iranian official said on November 19 that preparations are being made to launch Iran-US direct flight in the near future, predicting that the first such flight could take off in two months' time.
“The required preparations have been made and if negotiations in the coming days move in a positive direction, we will be ready to launch the flights by the end of 2013,” Deputy Roads and Urban Development Minister Ali Mohammad Nourian said in a press conference.
The deputy minister said that at least three Iranian airlines can have long-distance flights and are fit for the purpose.
He said that in the initial phase the flights will be chartered, adding that some American and Canadian airlines have also expressed readiness to fly passengers between the two countries by their Boeing 777 planes.
“Given the positive outlook of our government and the international talks, we hope that this issue is soon settled so that the Iranian fellow citizens in the US could travel between the two countries with greater ease,” Nourian said.
While in New York to attend the 68th session of the UN general assembly, President Hassan Rouhani pledged to facilitate travel to homeland for Iranian expatriates residing in the US.
The US, and Los Angeles in particular, is home to hundreds of thousands of Iranian expatriates.
Travelers between Iran and the US currently have to change flights in a third country, usually in Europe or the Persian Gulf states. Although personal travel is generally exempted from US sanctions, experts say there are a couple of major obstacles before an Iran-US direct flight can resume.
The US treasury has barred Iranian airlines including Iran Air from being allowed to land or operate in the US. Furthermore, extraterritorial US sanctions prevents European airports from providing Iranian carriers with fuel or accepting money from them.
Unlike US flights, Iranian airlines still travel to London directly but are denied re-fuelling. Iran Air has at least three flights a week to London but has to stop in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to refuel each time it returns to Tehran. It can refuel in Ljubljana since the airport there has no direct flight to the US.