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ANALYSIS: Iran's Airstrikes Have Destroyed its Aviation Industry

ANALYSIS: Iran's Airstrikes Have Destroyed its Aviation Industry

BY LUKAS WOERNER Published on April 16, 2024 1 COMMENTS

In the latter part of 2023 — and early part of 2024 — tensions across the Middle East have escalated. This has extended beyond traditional diplomatic differences, transforming into armed, violent conflicts. As a result, major changes have hit the aerospace industry, raising questions about the role of aviation in these contested areas.


Although the initial conflict in the region pertains to internal conflict between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine and their territories (i.e. Gaza), recent involvement of other states and proxy conflicts leave the situation on the brink of an international war. One such actor is the Islamic Republic of Iran, which recently launched airstrikes in Israel after suspected Israeli-backed airstrikes targeted the Iranian embassy in Syria.



Iran Air Airbus A330
Photo: AeroXplorer | Lukas Wu


Although motives for the airstrikes in Israel remain complicated, commercial aviation has shifted greatly as a result. In April 2024, German aviation moguls Lufthansa continued to suspend commercial airline activities in the country, including at Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) in Tehran. Local Iranian news have established a no-fly zone above Tehran, authorizing it for the use of Iranian military aircraft. Austrian Airlines is the only other Western airline that has been flying into Tehran.


Although Iran has a population of 85 million — around the same as Germany — the economy has remained mainly isolated from foreign markets. Since the change of political power in 1979, the once very industrial and international trade-based economy domesticated most of its industries and pulled out of foreign organizations.


The domestic economy continues to grow in Iran, but repeated international conflicts and ideological differences have kept the country's international footprint relatively modest. Many foreign sanctions have limited domestic industries from acquiring certain foreign materials, making a fully domestic airline industry difficult to grow. As a result, only 21 airlines fly to the country, and only 171 Iranian airplanes remain functional.




Iran Air Airbus A300
Photo: AeroXplorer | Ricardo Mungarro


The cost of flying has risen in recent years, as labor costs, fuel costs, and other fees have risen seemingly exponentially. In Iran, plane tickets have risen 30% as a result, making any domestic tourism growth plans incredibly hard to scale. Additionally, transportation safety standards are incredibly perilous, with repeated terrorist attacks and foreign military conflicts occurring throughout the country for decades.


As of 2024, flight routes between the West and the East remain contested through these no-fly areas, as parts of Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan all contain locations with zero commercial flights.


As part of Lufthansa's cease of flights, Western air presence in the Middle East remains minimal, as Middle East-based carriers continue to dominate both domestic and international flights in the region. As these cash-rich airlines continue to reinvest in their offerings, it would be no surprise if their presence will be seen in emerging markets.

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