‘Insatiable demand’ for Iran tourism as BA mulls restarting Tehran flights

© Toby Melville
British Airways (BA) chief executive Willie Walsh says the airline will consider recommencing flights to Iran, in the wake of the US-brokered nuclear deal which has seen sanctions against Tehran eased.

Walsh told a Global Airfinance conference in Dublin the airline would be “interested” in exploring the possibility, as Iran and the West enjoy something of a détente following years of sanctions. 

“We are very interested in flying to Tehran and we are hopeful that it will form part of BA’s network in the very near future,” he said.

“We are actively looking at it as a destination,” he added.

Following the lifting of sanctions, the appetite for tourism in Iran has grown substantially and tour operators have reported a jump in interest since June 2015.

Tour operator Wild Frontiers told the Telegraph current interest in travelling to Iran is “insatiable.”

“Bookings for Iran have increased dramatically over the past 18 months,” Jonny Bealby said, explaining the rise was “initially due to the thawing in relations between Iran and the West and more dramatically since the British [Foreign Office] lifted its advice against travel and reopened their embassy in Tehran.

“To cater for the insatiable demand we have put on an additional six group departures and are already selling tours for 2017.”

If BA resumes services to Tehran, it will push out other routes to make way for the service. The last BA plane to fly to Tehran was in 2012.

A spokesperson for BA said the airline constantly reviewed its network of routes “to ensure that we operate to destinations with a strong demand from our customers.

BA’s flight of fancy comes as regulators in the UK look to allow two Iranian banks to resume operations in London.

Two sources told Reuters on Wednesday the banks, Melli Bank and Persia International Bank, would only be allowed to work in London if they met stringent criteria laid out by the Bank of England.

The move could see the banks become reintegrated into the British financial landscape and begin to build up some of the profits and stature they were enjoying 10 years ago, before sanctions were put in place.

The British government has also expressed its support for the initiatives to bring Iran out of isolation.

“The UK government fully supports expanding our trade relationship with Iran and encourages UK businesses to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that will arise ... However, some sanctions remain in place so UK businesses should continue to ensure they are compliant with all sanctions regimes,” it said in a statement.