It’s hard to believe that we’re now entering the sixth week of Norwegian’s 737 MAX 8 being grounded in Iran. Despite best efforts by the airline to get their heads around complicated Iranian laws, as well as appealing to the US to allow a spare part to be sent over, the plane remains standing at Shiraz airport.
Today, 07:48am in Shiraz, Iran.
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) January 24, 2019
You may remember, Simple Flying reported that the aircraft had to make an emergency landing, back on December 14th. While on a flight from Dubai to Oslo, a low oil warning meant crew had to shut down one of the engines and make an emergency landing at an airport in Shiraz, Iran.
At the time, there were 186 passengers and six crew members on board, all of whom were able to leave on another flight to Oslo the next day. But for the aircraft, leaving was not as simple as all that.
Why can’t Norwegian just get their plane back?
You’d think with an $80m jet sitting on the ground not earning its keep, Norwegian would be keen to retrieve their aircraft. And they probably are, but it’s not that easy.
The aircraft requires a part to fly again. The part needs to come from Boeing, a US company.
The US sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program prohibit the delivery of any items or parts of US origin, or where more than 10% of the part is made in the US. The only way to get the part into the country is to obtain a special license from the US administration to allow the import.
Speaking to Air Transport World, a spokesperson for Norwegian said:
“There’s a technical issue with the aircraft that requires a new part. Our technicians have been in [to Iran] to investigate, but due to sanctions, that has caused a delay in getting the aircraft,”
It’s not just the aircraft that could be in trouble either. All the passengers and crew members officially spent time in Iran, having disembarked the stricken 787 and spent the night in a hotel. If any of these people wish to travel to the US in future, they could have a hard time in securing a visa.
Since 2015, anyone who has travelled to Iran, along with six other ‘at risk’ countries, is excluded from the visa waiver program usually applied to most Europeans. For the passengers, this is a mild inconvenience. For the crew members of Europe’s largest transatlantic carrier, it could be a disaster.
When will the plane fly again?
Right now, nobody knows.
Getting the paperwork sorted to have the part sent over from Boeing was always going to be a problem. It takes time, and with the current government shutdown in place, it’s taking much longer than usual.
A spokesperson for Norwegian said:
“Unfortunately, the paperwork necessary to service the plane has taken longer than usual, partly due to fact that we have had to familiarize ourselves with Iranian regulations.”
The aircraft fault is such that it cannot even be flown into a neighboring country, so unless authorization from the US administration can be obtained, it seems Norwegian have reached a stalemate.
With today’s announcement that IAG will not bid for a takeover of Norwegian any more sending their share prices plummeting, coupled with their ongoing financial crisis, Norwegian have not had the best start to 2019.