The 4 Passenger Airlines That Fly The Airbus A300 To Istanbul

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Istanbul Airport – the busiest airport in Europe this year – is mainly full of shiny aircraft, and you’d be pretty much correct. But it’s more than that. Istanbul also has more passenger A300 flights anywhere outside Iran, with four airlines using the type to Tehran.

Iran Air A300
Iran Air last used this specific aircraft (EP-IBC) to Istanbul on October 25th. It left Iran at 08:44 and arrived back at 16:52. Photo: Frank Schwichtenberg via Flickr.

A300s at Istanbul

Of course, some A300s at Istanbul Airport are freighters operated by MNG Airlines. The carrier, which started operations in 1997, has seven A300-600Fs. Five are on the Turkish register, with the remaining two operating elsewhere for DHL.

Not all MNG’s A300s are operational, but one stands out: TC-MCG, a 27.37-year-old machine. According to Radarbox.com, since the morning of October 24th, ‘MCG has routed Istanbul-Aktobe (Kazakhstan)-Xian-Istanbul-Barcelona-Istanbul-Leipzig-Istanbul. The trip to/from DHL’s large hub at Leipzig is commonplace for MNG’s A300s.

MNG A300
This MNG A300 started life with China Northern, before being used by Angel Air, China Northern again, China Southern, and finally MNG. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr.

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Four passenger A300 operators

But it’s not just about freighters. Four passenger carriers – Iran Air, Iran Airtour, Qeshm Air, and Meraj Airlines – use A300-600s between Tehran Imam Khomeini and Istanbul Airport. Between them, they have over 800,000 round-trip seats on the 1,278-mile (2,056km) airport pair this year, based on analyzing Cirium schedules information.

In the next week, there will be approximately 32 outbound flights scheduled from Istanbul. Under the circumstances, not all necessarily operate, and Iran Air appears to be increasingly substituting the A300-600R – with 263 seats – with the more fuel-efficient A330-200.

In contrast, Iran’s Mahan Air deploys its A300s domestically. To Istanbul, it primarily uses the A310-300, naturally occasionally interspersed by the A340-600. When writing this airline, A310 (EP-MNV) is just north of Ankara en route to Istanbul.

Passenger A300s at Istanbul
On Sunday, October 24th, the author spotted a Qeshm Air on final approach to Istanbul being overflown at 14,400 feet by an Iran Airtour A300 heading back to Tehran. And turning for final (at the bottom of the image) was a Jordan Aviation B767-200ER. Image: Flightradar24.com.

Sanctions drive use

Of course, such strong use of the type is mainly from the severe sanctions that impede any real development for airlines in Iran. This includes the replacement of aircraft. Consequently, they continue to operate older and rarer aircraft – very exciting to avgeeks! – and they don’t grow. In summer 2021, we found that four in ten domestic seats were by the MD-80 series.

Qeshm Air A300
This A300-600 (EP-FQO) primarily operates between Tehran and Istanbul. It last departed Istanbul at 23:52 on October 24th. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr.

The Istanbul to Tehran market

The Istanbul Airport to Tehran Imam Khomeini market is large and diverse, with multiple operators and rare aircraft. Iran Aseman was also scheduled using the A340-300, but it doesn’t appear to be operating.

As you’d perhaps expect, Turkish Airlines has more seat capacity on it this year than any other operator. In the current week, Turkish has a four-daily operation, normally by 182-seat A321neos. Quite a contrast in age and fuel efficiency to the A300!

Have you flown the A300 with any of the airlines mentioned in the article? Share your experiences by commenting.

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