EghtesadOnline: Latest statistics released by Iran Airport Company indicate a 23% growth in the total number of foreign flights using Iranian airspace during the month to Sept. 22.
A total of 10,376 foreign flights passed through Iran's airspace during the month, which figure stood at 8,431 in the previous month.
However, a year-on-year comparison reveals a 56% drop in the number of overflights, mostly due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent suspension of airlines' operations.
According to Siavash Amirmokri, the managing director of Iran Airports Company, the number of flights has increased from 130 per day nearly 8-9 months ago to more than 330 these days.
“The outbreak of coronavirus has reduced the number of flights by 75-80%,” he was quoted as saying by the news outlet of the Ministry of Roads and Urban development on Monday.
Restrictions imposed by the US could be named as a secondary reason behind the drop in the number of flights passing through Iranian airspace.
Earlier this month, the US Transportation Department fined Emirates airline $400,000 for operating flights in parts of prohibited Iranian airspace in 2019.
Restrictions, however, apply on flights that transported passengers ticketed under a US air carrier's designator code.
“Iran is drawing up plans to offer discounts to foreign airlines using its airspace,” IRNA quoted a senior aviation official as saying recently, after a slump in flights due to the coronavirus pandemic and regional tensions.
Nasser Aqaei, director of the state-run Iran Airports and Air Navigation Company, said the discounts would go to the top eight airlines providing transit income as well as airlines boosting their flights by 20%.
However, no general cut in fees are planned, IRNA reported.
Iran uses overflight fees to fund services such as air traffic control, weather data and aeronautical information, Reuters reported.
The planned discounts still have to be approved by the government, Aqaei added.
According to Amirmokri, Iran Airports Company’s revenues from overflight charges decreased by 46% or $69 million in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period of 2019.
The official was earlier quoted as saying that optimistic projections put the number of aircraft flying over Iranian airspace during 2020 at 112,000 and expected revenues to reach 10,000 billion rials ($33 million).
Noting that overflight and airport services’ fees are the only sources of income for Iran Airports Company, Saeed Akbari, an official with Iran Airports Company, said it is facing a severe resource crunch.
“IAC is a government-run company and does not have the option of resorting to downsizing. On top of that, our employees are mostly the elites of the aviation industry so we can’t afford losing them,” he said.
Akbari stressed that even when the coronavirus outbreak ends, it would take a long time for the company to recover from this latest blow.
“The company may have to stop its ongoing development projects and cancel new contracts or implement pay cuts to stay afloat,” he was quoted as saying by the Persian newspaper Etemad.