Many of you have been wondering why the state airline of a pariah nation regularly visits a failing airport in the corner of England.
A while ago, I was told that Iran Air come to Manston to refuel, which struck me as a “reasonable reason” but a woefully inadequate explanation. Things are now becoming clearer…
For a number of historical reasons, Iran and USA are not best mates. The USA are currently showing their dislike of Iran through sanctions – read about the sanctions here. American foreign policy is conducted in such a way as to try to compel the rest of the world to follow their lead. The Americans “forbid companies and governments with economic ties with the US to trade with Iran”.
Depending on your viewpoint, this can be regarded as the effective use of economic leverage, or as blackmail. Either way, it seems to be working, in as much as Iran Air is desperately short of spare parts to maintain its fleet. The inevitable impact on airworthiness probably explains why most of Iran Air’s aircraft are banned from European airspace – read about the ban here. This BBC video clip shows a passenger explaining how the Iran Air plane’s tyres burst when it landed at Manston, stranding the hapless Iranians in Thanet for the night.
Although the small fraction of Iran Air’s fleet that is regarded as airworthy is allowed to land in London (not sure what they do about landing fees) they have to refuel elsewhere. Manton is apparently “devoid of American trade connections” and is thus free to flaunt the American sanctions without fear of retribution. If Manston ever tries running flights to the States, I expect they will find that the US Government and the Federal Aviation Authority have long and unforgiving memories. (Incidentally, does anyone know if Infratil has any “economic ties with the US”?)
So there you have it – Manston can get away with selling jet fuel to the Iranians because they are insignificant enough to slip through the American’s sanctions net. When viewed alongside the track records some of Manston’s other customers – MK Airlines’ stop-frame bankruptcy; Kam Air’s DC-8 close brush with disaster; Cargolux’s part in the international criminal price-fixing cartel – it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
Manston: judge them by the companies they keep.