Turkish Airlines plans to resume its route to Shiraz with three weekly flights as of 10 March 2021, marking a full restoration of the Iranian route network to pre-pandemic times. The Turkish carrier completely suspended regular flights to Iran in February 2020 with resumption plans changing regularly since up until becoming final in September 2020. On 25 September 2020, the first flight to Tehran took off from Istanbul, and a month later flights to Tabriz were relaunched. Breathing a sigh of relief, presuming that flights between Iran and Turkey would now return back to normal, Turkey suspended flights to Iran just a week later. The suspension only lasted a few days but it eventually sums up the recent state of the commercial aviation industry.
Turkish Airlines normally operates flights to Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Isfahan. Until January 2021, only flights to Tehran and Tabriz were resumed. The choice to operate flights to Tehran and Tabriz before resuming flights to the other cities might have been purely operational or in consideration for Qatar Airways’ presence. Qatar Airways has since the pandemic’s beginning maintained its route network in Iran, operating regular flights to Tehran, Shiraz, and Mashhad. This left, and still leaves, Turkish Airlines with little international competition on flights connecting Tabriz.
Tabriz is on track to become Turkish Airlines’ first Iranian destination to reach a pre-pandemic flight frequency, as the service is increased to six weekly flights in March 2021. All Iranian destinations were normally served seven times a week, except for Tehran which was served five times daily. In March, there will be 22 weekly flights to Tehran, three to Shiraz and Mashhad each, and two to Isfahan.
April and the Summer 2021 schedule currently present frequency increase on all routes, including a notable total of 28 weekly flights to Tehran, but there is always a possibility of further changes.
Turkish Airlines’ return to Shiraz also reconnects Iran’s fifth biggest city to the Star Alliance network after more than a year. Eurocontrol data between 18 and 24 February 2021 shows that Turkish Airlines and Istanbul Airport were Europe’s busiest airline and airport, handling 603 and 496 daily flights respectively.
Photo: Turkish Airlines