Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, freed from the sanctions that pinched his nation’s economy for a decade, heads this week to Europe, where he may sign a deal to buy 114 Airbus jets.

Share story

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, freed from the sanctions that pinched his nation’s economy for a decade, heads to Europe this week where he may sign a deal to buy 114 Airbus jets.

The purchase may include the double-decker A380 superjumbo jet as well as the A320 family of aircraft, Iran Air Chairman and Managing Director Farhad Parvaresh said in an interview.

Rouhani’s trip to Europe comes a week after the U.S. and other allies lifted economic sanctions designed to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The step opens the door for Iran to reach deals with companies in Europe and Asia.

With sanctions ended, Iran may trigger at least $50 billion a year in foreign investment to finance a rebound in an economy hit by the oil slump, the country’s central bank governor said last week.

Iran Air plans to add both Boeing and Airbus aircraft to its fleet, as it already has operated a mix of both, but is open to other manufacturers, Parvaresh said.

Iran Air is seeking to add at least 20 regional jets to its fleet. Bombardier has made a presentation of its products but is awaiting necessary Canadian government approvals to work in Iran.

The first of the 114 aircraft intended for Iran Air are expected to be delivered before March 21, Mehr news agency reported, citing Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi.

Iran is open to foreign investment in its airline sector, Akhoundi told a gathering of 300 aviation executives in Tehran.

The Islamic Republic needs 500 planes over the next decade to replace a fleet that’s 20 years old on average.

It has several airlines that will need to be upgraded and expanded.

While a purchase of 114 Airbus planes was announced last week, Boeing didn’t show up at the Iran Aviation Summit in Tehran where a wide gathering of government, airline and airport officials were present.

Akhoundi said Boeing is “unfortunately not here,” while carriers such as Iran Air expressed interest in Boeing planes. Iran’s interest in the A380 was first reported by Reuters.

The nuclear accord and the lifting of sanctions are still overshadowed by the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, in which dozens of American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for over a year, and has been further frayed by Iran’s missile tests and support for terrorist groups.

Rouhani is in Rome on Monday through Wednesday to speak to a business group, then he travels to Paris on Thursday for a meeting with President François Hollande.

When asked if the A380 will be included in the Airbus plans, Parvaresh said: “Yes, it can include everything, A380, A320 and A321.”

Airbus didn’t comment on specifics.

“We are studying our way forward in view of the recent development in full compliance with all international laws,” an Airbus spokesperson said by email, referring to the lifting of the sanctions. “We do not comment on talks which might or might not be ongoing with potential new or existing customers.”

The purchase of 114 aircraft will “most likely” be made by the National Development Fund, Ahmadreza Bayati Doosti, vice president of international cooperation at Iran Airports Company, said in an interview.