Boeing Visits Iran to Discuss Jetliner Sales

Boeing's first 737 MAX, named the 'Spirit of Renton,' sits on the tarmac Dec. 8 at the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington. Boeing aircraft orders fell by nearly half in 2015 even as deliveries rose to a record, the aerospace giant said Thursday. Boeing said that net orders for new …

Iran’s Aviation Companies Association announced on Monday that a delegation from Boeing has visited the country for preliminary talks about the sale of jetliners.

Boeing’s rival Airbus moved swiftly after economic sanctions against Iran were lifted, working out a deal to sell 118 planes for about $27 billion. Bloomberg News described the Airbus deal as a “bonanza” for the company.

Iran currently has about 60 Boeing aircraft in service, largely older models dating back to the 70s and 80s. Iran’s aging air fleet is in fairly rough shape. The Associated Press reports that only 150 of its 250 commercial planes are flying, with the rest grounded for want of spare parts. Iran’s air-safety record is characterized as “spotty.”

“The United States gave Boeing a license in February to hold talks with airlines in Iran but said it would need additional approval to make sales as Iran remains subject to a number of U.S. restrictions,” Reuters reports.

“Boeing faces risks and uncertain rewards as it vies with Airbus and others to replace Iran’s museum-vintage fleet,” Bloomberg News writes. “There’s the prospect of political backlash, given Iranian hard-liners’ penchant for anti-U.S. rhetoric and their attempt to prevent any American influence in the country. Boeing may also need to leave some wiggle room to back out of any deals for potential orders if the next U.S. president decides to reinstate sanctions.”

For the moment, the U.S. State Department appears to be pleased by Boeing’s overtures to Iran. Spokesman Mark Toner said the State Department has “seen a number of major companies making tangible plans to take advantage of the new commercial opportunities” from the end of sanctions, and promised “we are not going to stand in the way of permissible business.