In news that almost sounds like an April Fools, Iran’s Mahan Air has announced plans to fly direct routes to Venezuela. This politically motivated move requires a 16-hour flight, using an old Airbus A340 owned by a banned airline.
What are the details?
Iran has decided to show support to the regime of Venezuela by launching direct passenger flights between the two countries. The flight onboard a Mahan Air A340 from Tehran will fly halfway across the known world, and will touch Africa before crossing the Atlantic.
This new route is controversial, as Mahan Air is actually banned from the US and European Airspace. They have been accused of transporting military hardware under the guise of civilian transport. Whether or not this new route will also feature ‘soldiers going on vacation with hunting equipment’ remains to be seen.
Their fleet of aircraft is also dubious as, due to sanctions, Iran can’t get spare parts for most of their commercial planes. This is the same situation that caused a Norwegian 737 to be trapped in the country with no access to urgent maintenance.
The first flight on this route has already taken off on Monday evening, carrying officials to Venezuela to discuss opening up the passenger route. Generally, officials just apply through government agencies when they want to create a new route. With the status of who exactly ‘is’ the government in Venezuela in question, perhaps a personal touch is required.
Who is Mahan Air?
You will be forgiven if you have never heard of this airline. Mahan Air was originally founded back in 1992 as a privately owned airline in the country and today flies to 50 destinations in 18 countries. They had flights to Munich and Paris before the sanctions were imposed in April 2019. But they are still very much flying into other European countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, and Denmark… for now.
They have a fleet of 37 Aircraft, including one Boeing 747-300 and seven Airbus A340-600. Unlike most airlines we talk about on Simple Flying, they have no orders and are not able to purchase any new aircraft.
They actually have three newer 747-400’s, but can’t fly them without spare parts from the United States (they are currently stored away in hangers) and due to the fact that they are stolen.
“According to the British High Court, three 747-400s were unlawfully taken by Mahan Air from their real owners, Blue Sky Airlines, in 2008, using forged bills of sale. When ordered to bring the aircraft back to Europe, Mahan apparently claimed they could not do so because they were being investigated by the Iranian authorities for fraud and the aircraft had to be kept in Iran.”
What do you think? Would you like to fly this route?