IranAir has scheduled new routes from Tehran to Belgrade, Serbia and Tbilisi, Georgia. With the addition of three new Airbus aircraft and six ATR 72-600s, IranAir has been able to expand its operations. As Aviation Iran exclusively reported in September 2017, IranAir increased flights to a number of European destinations. With the launch of two new scheduled services to Belgrade and Tbilisi, the national carrier marks a small, but important, progress after years of setbacks.
The services were originally set to be launched on 13 January 2018 with flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays every week. However, the Belgrade route has been moved forward to 27 January 2018, and the Tbilisi route until further notice. Flight IR745 departs from Tehran to Belgrade at 08:05, and arrives back in Tehran as IR744 at 17:30 local time. Flight IR747 departs from Tehran to Tbilisi at 20:05, and arrives back in Tehran as IR746 at 00:40 local time. Both routes will be operated by Airbus A320.
Serbia and Georgia are two countries that have lifted visa restrictions for Iranian nationals. Georgia restored its visa-free regime for Iranians in February 2016 after having cancelled it in July 2013. Since then, roughly half of Iran’s sixteen domestic airlines operate flights to Georgia, either on a regular or seasonal basis. According to figures published by the Georgian National Tourism Administration, a total of 25.373 Iranians visited Georgia in 2015. During the first year of a visa-free regime in 2016, the figure stood at 147.937, noting a 485% increase. So far in the first eleven months of 2017, a total of 307.588 Iranians had visited Georgia, noting a 121% year-on-year increase.
After two days of negotiations in July 2017, Iran and Serbia reached an air transport agreement which would prepare for future direct flights. In September 2017, Serbia officially lifted visa restrictions for Iranian nationals after reports of it had emerged two months earlier.
As Iranians have limited visa-free travel options, abolishing visa restrictions for Iranians has turned out to be a recipe for success for many countries. Serbia’s new visa policy for Iranian nationals could create a similar development to Georgia’s, which has seen a great increase of nearly 1110% in Iranian tourists since 2015 as previously described. While IranAir’s service seems to be scheduled, but not bookable yet, it will most likely open new opportunities for other carriers. According to EX-YU Aviation, Qeshm Air also plans to commence a two-weekly service between Tehran and Belgrade as of 1 February 2018. With the Iranian high-season Nowruz in late-March closing in, other airlines can be expected to offer new charter flights to Serbia.
On a side note, Serbia’s neighbouring country Montenegro also expects to connect Montenegro with Iran by air. In November 2017, Montenegro Airlines signed an agreement with the Iranian travel agency Negin Parvaz Pars to introduce charter flights from Tehran to Podgorica. The agreement concerns flights during March and April 2018 but negotiations for the period from June to September 2018 are ongoing. Montenegro Airlines had previously outlined Tehran charter flights for Summer 2017. However, the plans were never materialized.
IranAir’s Airbus A320 fleet received a green light to operate in Europe as of May 2016, but it lasted until November 2017 that the first A320 flight was performed to Rome, Italy. As new ATR 72-600s are added to IranAir’s fleet, more A320s will be available to be used on international routes. As of now, IranAir’s ATR fleet includes six aircraft, with two more being delivered on 29 December 2017 according to Mehr News Agency.
Photo: Khashayar Talebzadeh
Note: As of 25 December 2017, IranAir’s scheduled Belgrade and Tbilisi services are not bookable yet.
This article has been updated since its publication.