Exclusive: Iran to land first Airbus jet within weeks under sanctions 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 on Monday, as Tehran and Western firms race to reopen trade

(AIRBUS) – 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 on Monday (December 19), 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.

“I think the Iranian’s and the French will probably be quite keen to get this ratified before Mr Trump takes up his post. That said, he could still drive a coach and horses through the whole lot when he gets in” Independent Market Analyst, Darren Sinden, told Reuters.

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’ U.S. rival Boeing.

The first Airbus A321 could arrive before the Jan. 20 inauguration of U.S. President-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. Iran said the deal with Airbus will be split roughly equally between narrow-body jets including the A320 and A321 and wide-body jets including the A330 and A350.

Donald Trump’s election as president raises the prospect the United States will pull out of the nuclear pact it signed last year with Iran, alienating Washington from its allies and potentially freeing Iran to act on its ambitions.

Outgoing President Barack Obama’s administration touted the deal, a legacy foreign policy achievement, as a way to suspend Tehran’s suspected drive to develop atomic weapons. In return Obama, a Democrat, agreed to a lifting of most sanctions.

The deal, harshly opposed by Republicans in Congress, was reached as a political commitment rather than a treaty ratified by lawmakers, making it vulnerable to a new U.S. president, such as Trump, who might disagree with its terms.