In his article for metro.co.uk on September 1, Toby Meyjes tells us that British Airways has resumed flights to Tehran.
After suspending service four years ago, British Airways will resume flights to Iran. Service between London Heathrow and Tehran will begin with six flights available each week, with an expected rise to daily flights later this year.
British Airways cited the capital as an ‘important destination’, upon announcement of its decision. However, according to Meyjes, “not everyone agrees Iran has done enough to justify the reopening of the route.”
Although many sanctions were lifted in January, the reopening is a cause for concern after a number of dual-nationality Iranians were recently arrested, most notably, British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Her husband warns, “If it could happen to Nazanin it could happen to anyone’s family or employee, so people need to watch for the risks.” Nazanin and her daughter Gabriella have been held for over 150 days.
Shahin Gobadi, of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told metro.co.uk, “As the Iranian Resistance has said on many occasions, any improvement of relations with the Iranian regime ought to be tied to an improvement in the human rights situation, and in particular a halt to executions, otherwise it would play into the hands of the mullahs and go against the high interests of the Iranian people.There’s no sign of such change from Iran; rather the situation is deteriorating in every aspect.”
Also critical of British Airways’ ‘Flights to Tehran’ web page, was Amnesty International, as there is very little information or warnings for tourists.
In its travel advice for Iran, the British Foreign Office warns that British nationals face greater risks than citizens of many other countries. “There’s a risk that British nationals and British/Iranian dual nationals could be arbitrarily detained in Iran,” it says, and adds, “…the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has serious concerns that the subsequent judicial process falls below international standards.”
A spokesman told metro.co.uk, “There are very deep-rooted and profound human rights problems in Iran and a few daily flights from London to Tehran aren’t going to make much difference over things like journalists in Iran being arrested for criticising the authorities or detained political opponents being given long prison sentences after blatantly unfair trials.”
The Foreign Office also warns travelers to ‘keep a low profile’, and that, “The Iranian authorities have in many cases failed to meet their international obligations to notify Embassies when foreign nationals have been detained.” Their advice is to keep in close contact with friends and family at home while traveling in Iran.
Surprisingly, while international protests are taking place to highlight the recent spate of executions in the country, the British government has encouraged greater interaction with Iran in terms of business opportunity. Former-foreign secretary Philip Hammond said that British firms should take advantage of the new opportunities opening up in the country. The British embassy re-opened in Tehran last year, after being closed since 2011.
Air France also resumed Paris-Tehran flights in April for the first time in eight years.
A British Airways spokeswoman said, “The Iranians have been extremely helpful in setting up this important new route and have been as keen as we are for the service to start. Tehran is an important destination for British Airways and we wanted to ensure that the service we offered met the highest standards our customers rightly expect of us from day one.”