New Delhi: State-run Air India Ltd plans to restart flights to Iran suspended nearly two decades ago because of turmoil in the Middle East and international sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear programme.

The all-economy flights that will be launched under its low-cost brand Air India Express will connect Delhi with Tehran thrice a week, an airline official said. The flights are expected to resume in April “or a little before that," said Air India Express chief K. Shyam Sundar.

“Last flight was in 1990s when Air India used to fly Bombay-Tehran but then perhaps because of turmoil in the region we discontinued," Sundar said. “Then there were issues with EXIM Bank. Once the sanctions were removed it became easier. Now obstacles are gone."

Almost all of Air India’s international fleet, including Air India Express Boeing 737 planes, have been funded with US EXIM Bank loans.

Iran emerged from years of economic sanctions in January when world powers lifted sanctions against the country in return for complying with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions. That happened after the UN nuclear watchdog said Iran had complied with an agreement it signed last year with six world powers to curb its nuclear programme.

Air India, which has informed the US EXIM Bank about its plans to resume flights to Iran, already has an office in Tehran and is in the process of obtaining clearances from Iran.

It will hire sales and ground handling agents in Tehran. On the three-and-a-half hour flights, Air India will offer free snacks like samosa, cake and coffee while keeping a dedicated menu for sale on board

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