Iran’s Mahan Air Banned From Spanish Airports

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In what appears to be a political rather than safety or regulatory issue, Spain is prohibiting Iran’s Mahan Air from landing at its airports. The airline had been flying into Barcelona but had to quit the route in late March when Spain suddenly canceled the airline’s license. Unofficially, sources are saying it is part of a broader move to isolate Iran.

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Spain has canceled Mahan Air’s license to operate out of Barcelona. Photo: Getty Images.

A report in CH-Aviation suggests the revocation of landing rights follows a campaign by the US Government to isolate Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

A short-lived service falls victim to political considerations.

The US Government has mostly gone out on its own in its attempts to isolate Iran. But that hasn’t stopped it from trying to influence other countries, including European nations, from cutting ties with Iran.

The CH-Aviation report cites a report in La Vanguardia, a Spanish newspaper. La Vanguardia says the final Mahan Air flight departed Barcelona on 23 March. Before this, flights between Barcelona and Tehran had run twice weekly.

But it had been a short-lived service with flights only starting to Barcelona in January. The newspaper notes that seat utilization on the route was mediocre, at about 30%. Barcelona Airport also closed Terminal 2 on 26 March, taking advantage of dwindling passenger numbers to renovate the terminal. Mahan Air operated out of Terminal 2.

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The temporary closure of Barcelona’s Terminal 2 has been given as a reason for canceling Mahan Air’s license. Photo: Grobuonis via Wikimedia Commons.

Ostensibly, these gave Mahan Air reasons to quit the route, but La Vanguardia quotes “airport sources” as saying the reasons are political.

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Mahan Air is alleged to be involved in murky business.

Mahan Air is a privately operated airline. But it is alleged to have ties to the Guardians of the Revolution-Quds Force. The United States has argued that Mahan Air has used its planes to ship weapons, fighters, and other equipment to conflict zones, including Syria and Yemen. The United States also alleges the airline has worked with Hezbollah.

It’s enough to put the airline squarely in Washington’s sights. Along with the Iranian Government, various leaders, groups, and private Iranian businesses, Mahan Air is on Washington’s sanctions list.

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The US Government has made some serious allegations about Mahan Air. Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons.

And while many European countries don’t agree with Washington’s stance on Iran, it hasn’t stopped them from getting nervous about hosting Iranian businesses and electing to remove them.

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According to the unofficial sources, that’s what happened with Mahan Air in Barcelona.

Several European countries follow the US lead.

In fairness to Spain, it is just following a broader European trend. Germany, France, and Italy have all asked Iranian carriers to desist from flying into their airports.

In January 2019, Germany sent Iran Air packing from its airports. In a later tweet quoted in CH-Aviation, German Health Minister Jens Spahn doubled down, making noises about COVID-19 concerns and Iran’s lack of transparency.

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Germany asked Iran Air to exit its airports early in 2019. Photo: Daniel Garcia Peris via Flickr.

But La Vanguardia says German intelligence informed the German Government’s decision. The Spanish newspaper report cites a German Government spokesperson who said Germany was closed to businesses “that support the war in Syria and help to repress people in conflict zones.”

France followed Germany three months later, also relying on information from their intelligence services. In December last year, Italy closed its airports in Milan and Rome to Mahan Air.

Spain’s decision means Mahan Air no longer flies into mainland Europe.

What do you think? Is Mahan Air’s exit from Barcelona because of reduced utilization and losing its terminal space in Barcelona or something murkier? Post a comment and let us know.

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