British Airways latest of several airlines to add flights To Iran

British Airways will return to Iran on 14 July 2016 after a 15.5-year absence of flying its own aircraft into the often controversial country.

British Airways (BA) will return to Iran on 14 July 2016 after a 16-year absence of flying its own aircraft into the often controversial country. BA will launch London Heathrow – Tehran service six times per week with four-class Boeing 777-200ER aircraft.

BA becomes the seventh airline to add international flights into Tehran during the last six months, as carriers planned to take advantage of a new openness following Iranian approval of a nuclear proliferation treaty.

“Iran is a large and growing economy and Tehran is a brilliant business city so we are incredibly excited to be adding another gateway to the Middle East for our customers," said Neil Cottrell, Head of Network Planning, British Airways.

"The recent lifting of sanctions opens up exciting new prospects for Iran as a tourist destination and with its rich heritage, unique architecture and world-class food it’s unsurprising Tehran is tipped to be a popular destination for 2016,” he added.

BA has a long history of flying to the city and offered the first scheduled flights between London and the Iranian capital in 1946.  Tehran is one of 14 new routes British Airways will be launching this year, which include San Jose, Costa Rica, San Jose, California and Lima in Peru.

Other airlines are also seeking to take advantage of Iran's potential. Alitalia boosted frequencies last month and now operates daily Rome-Tehran flights, while Air France announced in January that it will resume Paris CDG-Tehran service in April.  Air France will use Airbus A320 aircraft equipped with distance-increasing sharklets on the wings. The airline last operated to Iran during 2008.

In November, Lufthansa Group revealed that Eurowings will begin Cologne-Tehran service on 29 March 2016 using widebody Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Also in March, Lufthansa Group’s Austrian Airlines will expand Vienna-Tehran to 10 weekly flights, while Lufthansa will operate new Munich-Tehran flights thrice weekly starting 14 April 2016.

Etihad experienced two separate expansions to Iran, with the introduction of daytime Abu-Dhabi-Tehran that began 1 October 2015, and later expanded the route from 10 weekly flights to 14 starting I March 2016.

Airlines have been planning for a thawing of international sanctions against Iran for many months. In January, a new international nuclear treaty was ratified that lifted some international sanctions and freed billions of dollars in foreign reserves that Iran now may access.

Iranian carriers are expected to have their own expansion, after Iran revealed a need for 581 new aircraft over the next decade and subsequently ordered 114 Airbus aircraft in mid January.