Korean Air Cargo and Uzbekistan Airways have reached an agreement on moving cargo from Korean’s network to Tehran via Uzbekistan Air’s Navoi hub by tapping the Tashkent-based airline’s twice weekly 767-300F service to the Iranian capital. The deal extends a partnership already in place between the two carriers to feed cargo into Frankfurt from the Navoi hub.
The move comes after Tehran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) reached a deal on 14 July 2015, with effect from 16 January 2016, removing all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran.
The new agreement gives Korean Air an early and key foothold in the Iranian market that many logistics companies are eyeing as the next big growth market. This access via Uzbekistan Air will likely be either added to, or replaced by direct Korean flights as a result of permission granted in early March by South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to grant permission to operate four flights per week to Korean Air.
In so doing, Korean tipped Asiana Airlines for the access, which it must exercise – either in the form of passenger or cargo flights, or both – within one year, according to a report in the Korean Times.
“The new air route is expected to play a crucial role to boost business cooperation between the two countries, helping Korean companies make inroads into the country, as Iran has been a strategic partner with Korea since the 1970s with its abundant industrial potential in the Middle Eastern region,” the ministry said according to the report.
Although Seoul and Tehran agreed to four weekly flights in 1998, the flights were rarely operated due to lack of demand and sanctions imposed on the country. That agreement is still in effect.
In 1976, Korean Air operated one cargo flight into the country and Iran’s Mahan Air operated a passenger flight between Tehran and Seoul via Bangkok once a week in 2001, but halted operations after six months. Iran Air also launched a passenger flight between Tehran and Seoul via Beijing in December 2002, but suspended the flights in October 2007 due to the US sanctions against Iran.