Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has welcomed the planned halting of three major airlines' flights to Tehran and called on other airlines to follow suit.
On August 23, British Airways and Air France announced they would halt flights to Iran from late September "for business reasons." Dutch airline KLM had also announced earlier that it was canceling flights to Tehran.
Commenting on news of the decision by major international airlines to end their direct flights to Iran’s capital in September, Netanyahu, who was speaking during a visit to Lithuania, said, "That’s good. More should follow, more will follow, because Iran should not be rewarded for its aggression in the region, for its attempts to spread terrorism," The Associated Press quoted Netanyahu as having said at a news conference.
The airlines have said that their flights to Tehran are no longer economically viable. However, their decision to halt flights to Tehran comes months after the United States imposed renewed sanctions on Iran following Washington's pull-out from the nuclear deal with Iran.
In contrast to the decision made by BA, Air France, and KLM, the German airline Lufthansa and its Italian counterpart, Alitalia, are among the European companies still running flights to Iran despite the U.S. announcement, reported the Times of Israel on August 23, quoting AFP.
Iranian media earlier reported a sharp decline in air travel as the devaluation of the Iranian currency, the rial, led to a sharp increase in the price of airline tickets.
Sanctions on passenger airlines are not part of the U.S. punitive measures against Iran in two rounds of renewed sanctions. The first round of sanctions started on August 6 and the second round will start on November 4. However, the sharp devaluation of the Iranian currency as a secondary impact of the sanctions has put an end to the profitability of passenger flights to Iran as many members of the Iranian middle class are no longer able to buy airline tickets at high prices.
The three major airlines that have already announced halting their flights to Tehran from September have done so regardless of the promises made by the EU about compensating losses by European companies in case they are affected by U.S. sanctions for working with Iran.
In spite of the promises made by the UK, France, and Germany, dozens of European companies have left Iran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif complained earlier this week that Europe has not done enough to save the nuclear deal with Iran, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).
Meanwhile, Netanyahu told reporters before leaving Israel for the Baltic region that he would hold talks with the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia about "coordination with U.S. sanctions against Iran."
Earlier this week, Netanyahu had discussed U.S. and Israeli coordination about Iran during a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, Bolton had said that the impact of sanctions against Iran have surpassed initial assessments by the United States.
The U.S. State Department last week formed the Iran Action Group to direct, review, and coordinate Iran-related activity.