By Afshin Majlesi

Mahan Air clarifies why did not suspend China flights after requested ban

February 5, 2020 - 18:56

TEHRAN – Over the past days some media outlets blamed Iran’s Mahan Air for why it continued a number of China services for days despite the health ministry’s call for a halt (due to the outbreak of coronavirus).

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Mehdi Aliyari, director of the airline’s department for international affairs, rejected media reports that the airline had operated some China services without obtaining legal permission.

“On Friday (January 31), the health ministry requested that China flights should be suspended, but it will be finalized at a cabinet meeting on Sunday in order to make their decisions and make it clear to us so that we would act accordingly,” Aliyari said.

“However, we contacted the civil aviation organization on Saturday to clarify our assignment, and they insisted that they were waiting for the government’s decision, which was to be made at a cabinet meeting on the next day.”

“The organization, however, told us to stop selling tickets for flights to and from China destinations, and we, accordingly suspended all sales of Chinese flights for February 1 to 29,” he added.

The official underlined that there is currently no sales for flights to China and vice versa yet the airliner has no schedule for its routine China flights.

“But we announced that whoever has purchased our tickets ten days, or two weeks ago, or who have either traveled to Iran or traveled to a third country via Iran should be transferred to their original destination. These passengers were either Iranians who have traveled to China and later wanted to return to Iran or Chinese nationals who had come to Iran for a visit or on a transit flight.”

“Mahan Air operated these China flights in accordance with the country’s civil aviation organization because it wanted to give these people (the stranded passengers), in particular Iranian citizens, an opportunity to get their destinations.”

“So we operated four (round) flights according to the recommendation of the Civil Aviation Organization. Three of which took place on Sunday (February 2nd) between Tehran and Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, and the forth is being operated today (Tuesday) connecting Tehran to Guangzhou.”

“Therefore, all travelers who could change their tickets, either shorten their stay or change their destination, were transferred by Mahan Airlines without being penalized for changing dates or destinations of their flights.”

“So we operated these flights to help the (Iranian) government because they were not financially profitable. We didn’t consider any commercial-economic benefits for making those flights because (on average) they had passenger loads between 40 to 45 percent.”

The official also said that “another flight is being arranged upon request of the Foreign Ministry to transfer Iranian students from Wuhan to Iran on Wednesday. He noted that about 70 Iranian students are now in Wuhan and they will be kept in quarantine for 14 days.”

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted flights to and from China, one of the world’s busiest travel markets, as airlines around the globe halt service. Commercial flights to and from Wuhan, where the virus is centered, have mostly stopped globally.

Cancellations have spread to major hubs in Beijing and Shanghai. Carriers from British Airways to Singapore Airlines to United Airlines have suspended flights to China’s biggest cities.

AFM/MG

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