IATA Forgoes Neutrality & Takes Sides In US vs Iran

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a neutral worldwide airline trade association, founded in 1945, representing more than 90% of the world’s scheduled international airlines flying from nearly 150 countries.   Historically IATA has stayed out of politics as its members include airlines from every conceivable political background, including North Korea’s Air Koryo and Syria’s Syrianair. Given the sheer number of political adversaries that are members of IATA, it is unusual that IATA would choose to back US political sanctions against Iran and suspend the processing of ticket sales of Iran Air two weeks ago.


IATA’s choice to support the United States’ economic sanctions against Iran has devastating ramifications to for Iran Air.  In addition to working with airlines, IATA accredits travel agents globally, with more than 80% of worldwide airline sales being transacted through IATA accredited agents ad through IATA payment systems. When IATA suspends the processing of payments for airlines tickets, the sustainability of an airline, especially an international airline, is cut off.


Iran Air has faced hardship for decades as they have been forced to maintain their fleet without direct access to parts and support from Boeing, or its suppliers, nor can the airline directly purchase certain non-U.S. aircraft due to engines or major components being produced in the United States. More recently a number of fuel companies have chosen to not renew their contracts with Iran Air in Europe, forcing the airline to find alternate options to continue to serve more than a dozen European destinations without access to refueling.


IATA’s defense for suspending Iran Air’s ticket sales is that the ramifications for the organization, had it not sided with the United States’ political and economic sanctions against Iran Air, would have had a greater negative impact on the industry.  IATA has not clarified exactly what negative ramifications would have occurred.


As IATA is a neutral membership based organization and Iran Air has been a full member in good standing since 1964, and is still considered a full member by IATA, the organization is now denying a member its access to international services, used every second of every day by airlines all around the world.   IATA’s actions against Iran Air, without proper organizational due process, violate international law, as well as violating IATA’s Articles of Association.



While Iran may be considered a threat to the United States, and recently Iran has allegedly plotted to assassinate a Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Washington DC, IATA must remain neutral and follow its own internal policy and procedures. A neutral global organization cannot become intertwined in politics of nations it operates within.  IATA not a tool of any government and must be above the political battles waged between nations to be effective and to serve its membership…


…membership afforded to all qualified airlines, including Iran Air.


Happy Flying!



  1. That is just amazing. It would be like the international postal Union refusing to honour Russia’s postal system.

    BTW, does the U.S. still owe money to the United Nations? (IATA’s parent organization)

  2. Mouse,

    Each airline pays their own IATA membership. Iran Air has been a full member of IATA for 47 years, they have their rights as a member and are entitled to due process … not to mention IATA is not supposed to get entangled in international politics.

    Happy Flying!


  3. I must take issue with your characterization of IATA’s actions. Contrary to your assertion, IATA did not take sides on this matter and has serious concerns about the use of sanctions in the context of civil aviation, which the Association believes conflicts with international aviation law to which the US is a signatory. However, the sanctions imposed on Iran Air have the force of law and IATA does business in accordance with the laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate, including the US, where we also maintain offices. The failure to comply with these laws could result in the risk of serious penalties to IATA and IATA employees.

    Kind regards,

    Perry Flint
    Head of Corporate Communications
    The Americas,
    International Air Transport Association

  4. Mr Flint,

    First, thank you for taking the time to respond, your presence is much appreciated.

    Prior to writing my story on IATA and Iran Air I consulted a number of sources on the legal ramifications for IATA. It would seem that IATA’s assertion that its dealings with Iran Air, as a Canadian based organization, with its executives being based in Switzerland, would have legal ramifications from the US is incorrect. IATA presently deals with airlines in nations that are under US political an economic sanctions, aside from Iran Air, and does so with no fear of backlash from the United States. Why is the situation with Iran Air different than these other airlines?

    Many IATA members have staff in Iran, serve Iran and have offices and staff in the United States as well. One example of this would be KLM, who serves Tehran, has staff in Tehran and allows travelers to book flights from the US to Iran, via Amsterdam, through their US website … not to mention KLM’s deeply intertwined relationship with Delta. KLM, as well as British Airways, Aerflot, Lufthansa, and others, operate in this manner without any risk of penalties to their organization, their offices, their financial assets or their employees.

    In this case, IATA appears to have played the ‘safe card’ when the organization was in no danger of action being taken against it by the United States.

    Happy Flying!


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