AFP: Iran is seeking to move all Tehran’s international flights from the end of next month to a new and still under-used airport outside the city, the Fars news agency reported on Thursday. TEHRAN, April 26, 2007 (AFP) – Iran is seeking to move all Tehran’s international flights from the end of next month to a new and still under-used airport outside the city, the Fars news agency reported on Thursday.
Transport Minister Mohammad Rahmati said owing to an increase in domestic traffic, international flights would switch from the central Mehrabad airport to Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA), some 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of the city.
“Since the number of domestic flights from Mehrabad airport has increased and it has a limited capacity, all international flights will be moved by the end of May 22,” Rahmati was quoted as saying.
“We are seriously pursuing this plan and many of the international flights have already moved to the IKIA,” he added.
However Western airlines in Tehran said that they had not been informed of the decision and emphasised it would be almost impossible to shift their operations in such a short time.
“We are not aware of such a decision,” said a representative of Italy’s Alitalia, who asked not to be named. A British Airways official said: “We have not heard such a thing from the authorities.”
IKIA, named after Iran’s revolutionary leader, has had a turbulent history since its opening in 2004 as the Islamic republic’s showpiece airport and a hub intended to rival Dubai.
When it first opened in May that year, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards moved in to shut it down over their objections to the involvement of a Turkish-led consortium in the project.
The Guards said the consortium had business dealings with Iran’s arch enemy Israel, making it a danger to national security.
Even when the first flight touched down in May 2005, Britain and Canada told their citizens to use flights from Mehrabad amid concerns about runway safety at IKIA.
Currently all major European airlines operting in Iran such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France use Mehrabad airport. Iran has no direct airline links to North America and IKIA is currently only used by carriers to the Middle East and Asia.
Dubai-based Emirates is among the few foreign carriers to use the new airport and even at busy times it appears spookily empty with the spaces intended for dozens of duty-free shops and cafes still unused.