Iran Eyes Legal Action Against Airbus And ATR Over Spare Parts Supply

Iran’s aircraft fleet has been suffering from a lack of parts, with an estimated 50% of its passenger planes reportedly grounded due to technical problems. Now, the civil aviation chief of Iran has said that the country intends to pursue legal action against both Airbus and ATR regarding their lack of parts supply. Mohammad Mohammadi Bakhsh said at the weekend that the contracts to supply these parts were signed before the US sanctions were imposed, and therefore should be fulfilled.

Iran Air Airbus A330 Landing
Iran is ready to take Airbus and ATR to court over a lack of spare parts supply. Photo: Getty Images

Iran’s civil aviation chief has stated this week that the country intends to take legal action against Airbus and ATR regarding the lack of supply of parts for its aircraft. Mohammad Mohammadi Bakhsh claims that both planemakers refuse to honor their contractual obligations to deliver the parts, telling PressTV that,

“Airbus and ATR have cited the US sanctions whenever the issue was raised. Hence, we are protesting this decision and will be pursuing legal actions against them.”

Bakhsh notes that the parts supply contract was signed before the US reimposed sanctions on the country, and says that the two manufacturers should stick by their agreements. He further warns that the failure to supply these parts could cause a major incident. He said that Iran would pursue the legal case against the companies regardless of the outcome of talks with world powers regarding Iran’s nuclear deal.

Around half the passenger fleet is currently out of service. Photo: Chrisrabinson via Wikimedia

In December last year, it was estimated that more than 170 aircraft were grounded in Iran, representing over half of its passenger fleet. Alireza Barkhordar, vice president of Iranian Airlines Association’s board of directors, told the Financial Tribune that,

“If the status quo persists, we will see more planes grounded in the near future.”

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More than half of Iran’s passenger planes are grounded

Iranian airlines are notorious for flying older and less common aircraft, with examples of the A300/A310 and F100 still actively in use in the country. Much of this was a hangover from the sanctions against Iran, which have been in place, on and off, since 1995. Sanctions prevented aircraft manufacturers from supplying new planes or parts, leaving Iranian airlines to manage with their older airframes.

Iran Air A300
Iranian airlines have some older and unusual aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

But the sanctions were lifted in 2015, which saw Iranian airlines signing a flurry of orders to renew their aging fleets. By 2016, deals had been signed relating to 100 Airbus jets, 80 Boeing aircraft, and 40 ATR turboprops. But only 11 aircraft were delivered to the airlines before 2018 saw sanctions reapplied as the US withdrew from the nuclear deal. Arriving in the country so far has been one Airbus A321, two Airbus A330s, and eight ATR 72-600s.

While Iranian airlines would love to have their new aircraft delivered, the immediate requirement is for spare parts to reactivate their grounded planes. Operating these older aircraft means a constant need for parts and equipment to keep them flying, but neither ATR nor Airbus have been delivering the parts for fear of breaching the US sanctions.

In time, it is expected that President Biden will rescind the sanctions. However, in the meantime, the only way Iranian airlines can secure parts for their grounded aircraft is by using intermediaries to sneak them into the country. The airline ends up paying a significant markup on the part, which comes with no documentation or historical records, risking the safety of operations.