Iran is to build seven new international airports in the next 10 years as the lifting of sanctions allows it to meet pent up demand for passenger air travel.
The plan was announced by Abbas Akhoundi, the minister of roads and urban development, at the opening of the first Iran Transportation and Urban Development Summit, in Tehran on 4 October.
He said the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran had been planned to handle 50 million passengers per year, but can only handle 6 million now, so a second terminal will be inaugurated next year with a capacity of 5 million passengers.
Tehran’s other airport, Mehrabad International, handles about 13 million passengers, but most of these are domestic.
Iran is planning a rapid expansion of its aviation sector as part of a general upgrading of transport infrastructure in the wake of the landmark deal to freeze its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.
That deal, reached in July, explicitly prioritised "the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran".
Last month the Iran Airports & Aviation Development Forum said it was looking to build additional terminals at 27 airports, and was planning $8bn of new construction work in the Araz, Qom and the Ikia regions.
About $28bn of contracts in air, road, rail, maritime and urban transit systems were opened to investment at the summit.
The country’s four public and private airlines presently rely on some 250 ageing Boeings, Airbuses and Russian Tupolevs, and they have struggles to find spare parts for them during the sanctions regime.
Akhundi said Iran plans to buy 500 new passenger planes over the next 10 years, and a number of manufacturers around the world have been competing for a share of this $20bn order.
Boeing and Airbus have expressed their willingness to resume cooperation with the Islamic Republic once sanctions are removed in 2016.
Iran’s warming relations with Russia last week led to the purchase of $21bn of satellite equipment and aircraft at Russia’s MAKS airshow.
Photograph: Mehrabad International Airport is presently Iran’s busiest (Wikimedia Commons)