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Iran Guard's Airline Continued Regular Flights To China Despite Official Denials

Iranian Flight Evacuates Students from China’s Wuhan TEHRAN – Dozens of Iranian students were flown back to the country by a Mahan Airlines plane from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak. February, 05, 2020

A Radio Farda investigation shows that the Revolutionary Guard owned Mahan Air has continued its flights to four Chinese cities in the past three weeks despite consistent denials by Iranian officials.

The information has been collected from flight-tracking websites such as Flightradar24. As seen on Flightradar24 website in the screenshot below Mahan Air's flight W576 from Shanghai was scheduled to land at Imam Khomeini Airport of Tehran at 6:31 am local time on February 25.

-- Flightradar24 website shows the arrival time of Mahan air plane from Shanghai in China to IKA airport in Tehran, Monday 24, 2020.
-- Flightradar24 website shows the arrival time of Mahan air plane from Shanghai in China to IKA airport in Tehran, Monday 24, 2020.

Our investigation revealed that from February 4 to February 22 Mahan Air flew at least fifty-five times to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen and back to Iran from Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport.

On Tuesday the Spokesman of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) refuted the accusations against Mahan Air and its possible role in the coronavirus outbreak in the country by continuing to fly to China.

Reza Jafarzadeh said after the government decided to cease all flights to and from China but there have been a few authorized flights including a flight to evacuate students and other Iranian nationals from China and a few cargo flights, all of them under the supervision of the Health Ministry and with all due preventative sanitary measures.

The government had decided in early February to stop all flights to China. After an emergency cabinet meeting on February 14, Health Minister Saeed Namaki told reporters that flights from and to China had stopped. No coronavirus cases had been reported in Iran at the time.

In an Instagram post on February 23, Mahan Air said it had last flown to China on February 3 and 4.

Reports of continuation of Mahan Air flights to China despite the ban have drawn criticism from lawmakers and the public. A member of Iran's Parliament on Tuesday said flights between Iran and China have not stopped despite the official "suspension" of flights.

On February 2 the Chinese envoy in Tehran posted photos of a meeting with Hamid Arabnejad, the CEO of Mahan Air, on Twitter and said he has announced that the airline wanted to "continue cooperation with China".

Mahan airline is partly owned by the Revolutionary Guard. It was designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2011 for supporting the Revolutionary Guard's Qods Force. On December 11, 2019, the Treasury Department designated three of Mahan Air's general sales agents based in the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong for "facilitating the Iranian regime's support to proxy militias".