The national carrier of Iran, Iran Air, announced the return of a route between Tehran and Rome at the beginning of December 2019. Earlier in the month, Italy banned Mahan Air, another Iranian carrier, from its airspace following diplomatic pressure from the United States.
Mahan Air, accused of transporting military equipment and personnel of Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guards around the Middle East war zones, was already banned from operating passenger flights to and from Germany and France. In 2011, Mahan Air had already been blacklisted by the United States for the same reasons.
The Italian National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) announced in a press release on October 30, 2019, that it would follow suit, and that Mahan Air would be banned from the country’s airspace from December 15, 2019.
Iran Air will operate flights twice a week between Tehran International Airport (IKA) and Rome–Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) from December 2, 2019, “in response to requests by Iranians living abroad”, spokesperson of the national carrier told the agency Fars News on November 6, 2019. It is already offering two weekly flights between Tehran and Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP).
In addition to the ban on Iranian carriers, several European airlines including Alitalia, Air France, KLM, and British Airways put an end to their routes towards Tehran in the past years. In November 2019, Iranian airport authorities have reported that the country’s main international airport had seen an 8.5% decrease in passenger traffic in the first half of 2019 compared to 2018, a 20.6% drop compared to 2017. Flights are also down 15.7% compared to 2018 (26.2% compared to 2017).
Washington has intensified sanctions against people and companies linked to Iran following the decision of President Donald Trump to step out of the Iranian nuclear deal in May 2018.
Among other sectors, US sanctions that were reinstated in August 2018 have greatly impacted the aviation industry.