ATR, Airbus Help Open Commercial Floodgates to Iran

 - February 1, 2016, 11:11 AM
Iran Air chairman Farhad Parvaresh (left) and ATR chief executive Patrick de Castelbajac sign an historic deal in Teheran Monday covering orders for as many as 40 ATR 72-600s. (Photo: ATR)

The diplomatic breakthrough between the West and Iran has resulted in nearly immediate windfalls for Airbus and Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR, the beneficiary of a new firm order announced Monday from Iran Air covering 20 ATR 72-600s. The €1 billion deal, which includes options on another 20 of the turboprops, followed talks in Rome and Paris during the official visit to Europe of Iranian president Hassan Rohani. The Iranian contingent sealed a deal covering 118 Airbus jets while meeting with French President François Hollande at the Élysée Palace in Paris last Thursday.

Iran Air’s contract with Airbus includes orders for 21 airplanes from the current A320 family, 24 A320neo-family airplanes, 27 of the current A330 family, 18 A330-900s, 16 A350-1000s and 12 A380s. The deal for the A380s comes as a particularly welcome boost for Airbus, which has struggled to sell the superjumbo in recent years.

Following Monday’s announcement, ATR praised the Italian and French states for their role in the deal through the participation of their export credit agencies, respectively, Sace and Coface. The contract marks the long-awaited arrival of modern ATRs in Iran, where the first generation of the turboprops have operated since 1992.

The agreements took place as part of the implementation of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action) on January 16. Under that deal, Iran has agreed to significantly curb its nuclear ambitions and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency regular access to its facilities for inspection.

Economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the West for many years have hindered the development of its air transport industry, leaving the likes of Iran Air with decrepit fleets of maintenance-intensive aircraft, many acquired before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. A lack of availability of spare parts kept many airplanes grounded or flying in questionable condition, making Iran's airlines some of the world’s most accident-prone.