The Lufthansa Group continues to grow its presence in Iran as it seeks to take advantage of a post-international sanctions boom in business links into the country. Fresh from announcing a new Munich – Tehran link from Lufthansa and a second daily Vienna – Tehran flight from Austrian Airlines, the Star Alliance member has confirmed the introduction of only the second regular link between Europe and the city of Isfahan.
The new four times weekly link from Austrian Airlines between Vienna and Isfahan’s Shahid Beheshti International Airport will start from April 4, 2016 and will bring the flag carrier’s operations into Iran from just seven weekly flights this year to up to 18 return rotations as of summer 2016.
The new flight will be operated by an Airbus A319 and its introduction follows a recent revision to the previously heavily restrictive bilateral between Austria and Iran following the official state visit of Austria’s President Heinz Fischer to Iran in September this year. A link to Shiraz is also understood to be under consideration by Austrian Airlines.
“After 30 years a new bilateral air transport agreement between Austria and Iran was concluded in October 2015. It serves as the basis for expanding our overall flight offering to Iran”, said Andreas Otto, Chief Commercial Officer, Austrian Airlines.
“We recently added one additional daily flight to Teheran in the upcoming summer season. Thanks to our new flights to Isfahan, we offer the business community a further direct flight connection as the basis for expanding trade ties between the two countries,” he added.
Isfahan is one of the most important commercial centres in Iran outside of the capital, Tehran. The ancient town, once capital of Persia from 1598 to 1722, is located at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range in Central Iran and is currently the third largest city in the country. Alongside traditional businesses producing fine carpets, textiles, steel, and handicrafts, the city has become a key location for new businesses, many supported by international investment.
Turkish Airlines is currently the only carrier providing non-stop links between Europe and Isfahan. The carrier launched flights to the Iranian city from its Ataturk International Airport hub in Istanbul in December 2012, initially on a twice weekly basis, but since July 2015 has been offering a daily service to meet the growing point-to-point demand and increasing connecting flows via other points in Europe.
An estimated 77 passengers a day are flying between Europe and Isfahan and vice versa with Germany the largest source and destination market over the 12 months to August 2015, according to O&D demand data from Sabre.
The statistics show only a small market between the city and Austria during the analysis period, but Austrian’s strong European network and the activities of its Star Alliance partners will help support one-stop markets behind Vienna.
The Austrian capital only just makes it into the top 20 O&D markets to/from Isfahan in the last year, with the largest points being Stockholm Arlanda (6.6 per cent share), Dusseldorf (6.2 per cent), Paris CDG (6.1 per cent), Frankfurt (5.3 per cent) and London Heathrow (5.2 per cent).
Many industry observers believe that Iran will be the next boom market for the industry and other airlines are likely to add new capacity into the country. Aircraft manufacturers, lessors and brokers are already looking to place large amounts of new and second-hand equipment into the market to renew the ageing fleets of Iran’s airlines after “the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran” was put among the priorities after the lifting of sanctions.