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Korean Air requests postponement of Iran flight deadline

By Won Ho-jung

Published : Feb. 22, 2017 - 16:28

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Korea’s largest air carrier sent a request to the Transport Ministry on Tuesday to postpone the start of its Iran flights.

According to a spokesman for the airline, the major reason for the delay was the difficulty of beginning the service in the face of escalated tension between US and Iran, with Washington tightening sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. 

(Korean Air) (Korean Air)

“The restrictions on dollar transactions makes it difficult for us to set up a branch in Iran and sell tickets,” he said. 

Korean Air beat rival airline Asiana Airlines last March to win a license to operate four flights a week to Iran. Under current regulations, Korean Air has to begin flights within one year of being granted the license, or it forfeits its rights.

To hold on to the license, Korean Air must submit documents to the Transport Ministry substantiating its claim that it is difficult to begin operating flights to Iran before the March 11 deadline.

The Transport Ministry said it will make a decision about the deadline early next month. 

The Transport Ministry granted Korean Air a stay on its deadline for flights to Istanbul, Turkey after terrorist attacks in the area last year. At the time, the deadline was postponed for six months. 

The spokesman for Korean Air said there was no specific timeline for the postponement regarding Iran.

The direct flights from Seoul to Tehran were expected to significantly reduce the flight times between the two countries, which currently require passengers to transfer at other Middle Eastern cities. Korean Air operates flights to Dubai and Tel Aviv, while Asiana Airlines does not offer any direct flights to the Middle East. 

Although the governments of Korea and Iran reached an agreement to operate direct flights between the two countries in 1998, there has never been a direct flight actually operated on that route. 

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)