The Airline With the Most Dangerous Checked Luggage in the World

Mahan Air was Iran’s first private airline. It’s owned by the Mol-Al-Movahedin Charity Institute. Except that Mol-Al-Movahedin is controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

They have a loyalty program Mahan & Miles and their Airbus A340-300 aircraft offer three-cabin first class.

Mahan Air Airbus A310, Dusseldorf Germany, Copyright ewastudio / 123RF Stock Photo

A Mahan Air flight plan doesn’t tell you where their aircraft is actually going to go.

Apparently they’ll sometimes do this turning off their transponders. Not what you’d expect from an IATA member.

Carrying weapons and personnel to Syria is one such case. Flight records show that Iran Air’s flight 697 — the Tehran-Damascus route — was operated 66 times over the last year, including three times from Abadan, on Sept. 8, June 9 and May 10. There were at least an additional 20 Iran Air flights to Damascus between Dec. 14, 2015, and the end of August 2016. Not all originated in Tehran, however. On Feb. 14; June 5, 6 and 7; July 24 and 25; and Aug. 10, aircraft took off from Yazd. On June 25, it originated from Kermanshah. And on July 30 and Aug. 6, 8 and 28, it departed from Abadan.

Many of these flights switched off their transponders above the western Iraqi desert, and in some cases, for part of their journey in Iranian airspace. Moreover, in the abovementioned cases, the flight number’s associated route did not match the actual plane’s journey. These practices are illegal under international civil aviation rules, and also reveal the intention to conceal the aircraft itinerary and likely its cargo.

They obtained 747s through fraudulent bills of sale from Yerevan’s Blue Sky Airlines.

And they’ve fraudulently obtained former Virgin Atlantic aircraft as well,

Shammout had used a Dubai-based front company and an Iraqi-based private airline to help direct the sale of nine passenger aircraft to Mahan, in violation of international sanctions against the airline. Eight of the aircraft are Airbus passenger jets capable of long-haul travel that used to fly with Virgin Atlantic airlines.

The Iran nuclear agreement, that lifts much of US sanctions against Iran, does not lift sanctions against Mahan Air.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations sent a letter to the Security Council outlining how Mahan Air smuggles weapons to Hezbollah, the Shi’a Islamist militant group which the US designates as a terrorist organization: checked baggage. (HT: Keith J.)

“The Iranian Al-Quds Force packs weapons, ammunition and missile technology to Hezbollah in suitcases and puts them on Mahan Air flights.”

Danon added that “these planes fly directly to the airport in Lebanon or Damascus and from there the weapons are transferred on the ground to Hezbollah.”

Three years ago they were reported to ship “at least 5 tons of weapons per flight to Syria.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Isn’t your first block quote about Iran Air and not Mahan? Do you have any backup related to Mahan for the assertions in the article about turning off transponders and flying to different airports, or just about Iran Air?

    Not that I’d ever fly or support either, but I just don’t see how quotes about Iran Air support accusations toward Mahan.

  2. Yes, the article appears to support claims about Mahan by examples clearly marked Iran Air. These are not the same, right?

  3. “Shammout had used a Dubai-based front company and an Iraqi-based private airline to help direct the sale of nine passenger aircraft to Mahan, in violation of international sanctions against the airline.”

    Sanctions are _unilateral_ by definition. Whereas violation is the breach of an _agreement_. Iran ‘violating the sanctions’ imposed on them does not make any sense.

    As for covert interference in armed conflicts, yes it is a bad thing. Unfortunately morality has not prevented anyone with the means from doing it, going back to Adam and Eve.

  4. I don’t see any problem. Didn’t Pan Am fly troops and cargo from the US to Vietnam during the Vietnam war?

    Didn’t an Al El 747 crash in Europe with Israeli missile hardware packed in with the passengers luggage?

  5. When in Iran, i absolutely prefer to fly Mahan.
    I know problems of country, but I agree with comments of Robert Katz.

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