New Tehran airport opens – but no duty free yet – 01/05/05

IRAN. Tehran’s new Imam Khomeini International Airport re-opened on Saturday, nearly one year after it was stormed by Revolutionary Guards and closed down on its first day of operation.

The closure of the airport on 8 May 2004, due to an alleged “security threat” from foreign groups operating at the airport, caused international embarrassment to Iran. It was widely seen as a highly visible showdown between conservative and reformist elements in the country.

The airport was due to be run by the Turkish-led consortium Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV), which built the airport. Gebr Heinemann-controlled Unifree had landed the duty free contract in a joint venture with TAV. The joint venture, trading as RTU, operates the duty free stores at Istanbul Ataturk International airport.

The airport has re-opened under local control and TAV is still trying to recover the US$15 million it invested. Similarly the RTU duty free operation did not proceed.

Local reports said that the new airport has a duty free shop but the shelves were empty on the first day. Similarly, no food & beverage facilities were open. It is understood that the duty free operator from Tehran’s existing Mehrabad International Airport, Shahed Investment Corp, will run the duty free at the new facility. The group had earlier protested about losing the business to foreign competition.

The new opening was hit by more controversy when both the UK and Canadian authorities issued warnings about the new airport, claiming its runway may not yet be safe.

“We are aware of reports that the runway at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran may not yet be suitable for use,” said a travel warning issued by the Foreign Office in London. A similar warning was issued by Canada. Both countries have cool relations with Iran.

But the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation said the travel warnings were baseless. “They don’t have the right to make such comments. It doesn’t make any sense,” Nourallah Rezai Niaraki told reporters.

“After so much time working on this airport, we have made sure it is fully operational with no deficiencies,” he added, claiming that the International Civil Aviation Organization had inspected the complex 15 days ago.

Iran hopes its new airport will one day rival Dubai as a regional transport hub. It may have to work on its duty free a little harder.


Gebr Heinemann awaits results of Iran/Turkish dispute after army storms Tehran Airport – 11/05/04

Overdue 8 May opening for new Tehran Airport – 06/05/04

Gebr Heinemann joint venture lands key Tehran airport contract – 28/01/04

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