Four Airbus A340s aircraft bound for Uzbekistan departed South Africa last week but diverted to Iran and now the country’s authorities said they have bought them.
Various flight trackers confirmed their whereabouts at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport during the week until Iranian aviation authorities confirmed the buy of wide-bodied, long-range four-engine airliners on Wednesday, December 28, 2022.
Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization
Hassan Khoshkhou, the spokesman for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization (CAO), stated that the Airbus A340s are “made in France” and had come to the country “in current days”. He stopped short of providing further details on how the airliners were procured and who facilitated the buy.
The 4 A340-300 units – namely MSN 115, 180, 270, and 331 – were formerly operated by Turkish Airlines before their retirement in March and April 2019.
The planes were bought by a company from Hong Kong — AVRO Global – and were later transferred and stored at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg until the end of December.
For the past few years, the aircraft has simply been parked at Johannesburg Airport and were registered in Guernsey. There was not much sign of activity until recently when the aircraft was re-registered in Burkina Faso with new registration codes — XT-AKA, XT-AKB, XT-AKK, and XT-ALM.
South Africa & headed for Uzbekistan but ended up in Iran
The aircraft began their journeys out of South Africa and headed for Uzbekistan but ended up in Iran. The A340s were all produced between 1996 and 2000, so they are 22-26 years old, as are most of the Islamic Republic’s dilapidated travelers fleet because Iran is not permitted to purchase aircraft after the US sanctions, which have banned companies from selling aircraft that include US-made parts.
Iran Air and Mahan Air
This presents a major challenge for Iran Air and Mahan Air, the country’s 2 biggest airlines, which operate outdated fleets, as they can only get planes secondhand.
Even the planes they get secondhand are largely acquired illegitimately through clandestine transactions to circumvent the sanctions. Rumor has it that these four Airbus A340s were bought by Mahan Air, which already flies many Airbus A340s, most of which used to fly for Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic back in the day.
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In September, an official of Iran’s air travel services stated that the reason behind a shortage of plane tickets and high prices is that more than half of the country’s aircraft are grounded. “Most of the aircraft owned by the airlines are grounded because they require parts and it is impossible to give them after the sanctions,” he stated. He said that only about 120 to 130 airplanes out of about 340 are operational.
Alireza Barkhor, the deputy chairman of the Association of Iranian Airlines, also told the last year 2021 that more than 50 percent of passenger flights are not working due to a shortage of spare parts, particularly engines.
Iran has suffered from shortages of civilian airliners since the 1990s and used a variety of ways to lease older planes or purchase spare parts through intermediaries, but the technical state of its fleet has been deteriorating.
The 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) suspended sanctions on purchases of Western aircraft and Iran started talks to purchase new planes from Boeing and Airbus. A few Airbus planes were delivered but the Trump administration never approved the sale of US planes until Washington withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018.
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