Air France-KLM, British Airways exit Iran amid US sanctions

Air France and Dutch sibling KLM will halt flights by the end of September due to “weak commercial results. (Bloomberg pic)

PARIS: Two of Europe’s biggest carriers, Air France-KLM Group and British Airways, said they’ll suspend services to Iran, citing the reduced commercial viability of the route in the wake of the latest US sanctions.

Air France and Dutch sibling KLM will halt flights by the end of September due to “weak commercial results,” the group said Thursday. British Airways, IAG SA’s flagship brand, said its London-to-Tehran operation will also be terminated by then because it’s “currently not commercially viable.”

The moves come after US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 deal under which Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting sanctions on its economy. Many European companies, including energy giant Total SA and automaker PSA Group, have since pulled back from the country, drying up the flow of business travellers.

Siemens AG said Thursday it would take “ appropriate actions to align its business with the changing multilateral framework regarding Iran.”

Both airline groups had reintroduced services to Tehran about two years ago.

Air France will stop serving Tehran on Sept 18, a spokesman said by phone, while KLM said earlier it would end flights by Sept 24. Both airlines said the decision was related to business performance, not directly tied to US sanctions. BA will make its final trip to the Iranian capital on Sept 22.

Air France was serving Tehran via its lower-cost unit Joon, which covers lower margin routes. In May, it said it would only fly during the summer due to lack of demand. It also reduced the number of frequencies last month to one a per week, from three previously.

The routes had fostered debate as some employees demanded that female cabin crew be allowed not to wear a veil. The original service was opened in April 1946, and was also stopped a few times after the Iranian revolution of 1979.