By David Kaminski-Morrow in Paris

Sanction-hit flag carriers Iran Air and Syrian Arab Airlines are each struggling to address modernisation of their ageing fleets, admitting that the US-imposed restrictions are forcing them to adopt uneconomical strategies in order to maintain operations.

Neither Middle East state is able to acquire civil aircraft containing more than a modicum of US content, or the components needed for maintenance. Iran Air has had to ground several aircraft in its 36-strong fleet, notably its six GE CF6-powered Airbus A310-200s, over servicing issues.

Renewed civil aircraft support is among possible incentives being held out to Iran to resolve the stand-off over its nuclear programme. But Iran Air managing director Saeid Hesami says that, for now, the airline has to explore other means to ensure continuity of flights. “We’ve grounded [the A310s] because under no circumstances can we play around with the safety of our passengers,” he says. “We try to maintain the highest level of safety for the aircraft we fly – we obtain what we need from the world market and friends of Iran.”

Attempts to acquire A330s were blocked in 2001, forcing it to introduce older A310s instead and, last year, the airline added two ex-Olympic Airways A300s to its ageing fleet. “We encounter problems [through the sanctions] that incur greater costs,” says Hesami. “It is the people who are paying for this problem, in the form of higher fares to counter it – this is the injustice.”

Syrian Arab Airlines, an Airbus narrowbody operator, has been seeking A330s and A321s for renewal. But the airline has met similar difficulties, says chairman Nachaat Numir, and is considering Russian types to replace its Boeing 747s and 727s. It is discussing acquiring three Ilyushin Il-96s and four Tupolev Tu-204s from lessor Ilyushin Finance Company. “Unfortunately we’re stuck regarding a contract with Airbus because of the US embargo,” he says. ■

Source: Airline Business