Global aircraft makers are keen to turn towards Iran ever since Western sanctions on the country were lifted last month, as the West Asian country looks to replace its ageing fleet of about 280 commercial aircraft of which almost half are grounded for want of spares.
Iran's 14 airlines, including state-owned IranAir, have a combined capacity to fly 22 million passengers per annum, according to aviation research body Centre for Aviation (CAPA).
Iran's other carriers include ATA Airlines, Atrak Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, Mahan Air, Meraj Airlines, Qeshm Airlines, Taban Air and Zagros Airlines.
Sanctions imposed on the country over its nuclear programme resulted in about 130 aircraft grounded for want of spares, CAPA added. The sanctions were lifted last month, paving the way for Iran to go aircraft-buying to replace its ageing fleet.
Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) has estimated that the country will require about 80 to 90 new aircraft every year over the next five years, and as many as 550 aircraft within a decade, just to deal with the domestic market of about 80 million people.
"Iran is in other words really planning to reset the clock on its civil aviation industry," said CAPA.
The country could put about 60 aircraft to service if components are made available from Western suppliers, according to Mohammad Gorji, VP of executive affairs and fleet development, Aseman Airlines. IranAir has a network of 27 international and 25 domestic destinations.
Boeing gets going
The approval by the Obama administration on Friday to Boeing to initiate talks with Iran for possible sale of jets is another indication of the bullish times ahead for civil aircraft makers.
"The license permits us to engage approved airlines to determine their actual fleet requirements," the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quoted a Boeing spokesman as saying.
"We understand that the situation in the region is complicated and ever-changing and we will continue to follow the U.S. government's guidance as it relates to conducting business with Iran," the spokesman added.
At a CAPA summit last month, IranAir Chairman and MD Farhad Parvaresh said that the state-owned carrier's "primary challenge was to simply keep it alive."
Airbus bags 118 aircraft order
During the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit to France last month, Iranian officials signed agreements with Airbus to buy 118 aircraft, comprising 21 A320ceo, 24 A320neo, 27 A330ceo, 18 A330-900 neo, 16 A350-1000s and 12 A380s, according to a statement on IranAir's website.
1 billion deal with ATR
This was followed up by another agreement early this month with turboprop maker ATR to buy 40 ATR 72-600s, comprising 20 aircraft, and an option to buy 20 more, valued at about â‚¬1 billion.