Lufthansa has canceled all flights to and from Iran following a disturbing incident on Thursday. Maintenance teams in Frankfurt found a body in the landing gear of an Airbus A340-300 returning from Tehran. Following the news, Lufthansa and Austrian announced they are canceling all flights to Iran until further notice, with the move coming at a time of heightened protests in the country.
Found hours later
Lufthansa operates a daily service, LH 601, from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport to its home in Frankfurt-Main International Airport. However, on Thursday, maintenance teams made a shocking discovery while working on the aircraft in the hangar, a body in the undercarriage.
The body was found after four hours of maintenance, well after LH 601 landed at 05:18 AM on Thursday. While officials have not confirmed any details about the incident yet, it is likely a case of a stowaway, or a person who hides within an aircraft to travel undetected. Stowaway incidents are rare, but many choose the landing gear area to hide since it is more easily accessible. However, the cost can be fatal at most times.
In response to the incident, Lufthansa suspended all flights to and from Iran, a move followed by sister carrier Austrian Airlines. This means all subsequent rotations to Tehran have been canceled, likely leaving hundreds stranded in the country currently. Germany is home to a large Iranian-descent population, making the route a busy one.
The aircraft in question, D-AIGW (pictured above in the Star Alliance livery), has been cleared to fly and has since been on several long-haul rotations. The A340-300 is 22 years old, having joined the fleet in February 2000, and is currently flying to cities in Asia and North America, with Tehran as one of its shortest routes.
German authorities have not released any details, while Iranian officials have said they await official documentation before proceeding, according to Iran International. However, tensions between the EU and Iran have been growing following nationwide protests supporting women’s rights in the country. With the Iranian government cracking down on protestors with force, the EU has implemented a string of sanctions and is mulling visa restrictions for those affiliated with the government.
Photo: Getty Images
The suspension of Lufthansa and Austrian services means there are no longer any direct connections to Europe available for those residing in Iran. This could complicate the situation for many looking to leave the country, especially in current times. However, major airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines are maintaining services, allowing connectivity to much of the world with one stop.
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Iran has been under strict sanctions from the US and EU since the 1970s, leaving the aviation industry decades behind. While a brief window between 2015 and 2017 allowed Iranian carriers to purchase new aircraft and update their technology, the end of the nuclear deal meant sanctions were promptly re-placed, cutting the country off from the West once more. This explains why the country is home to many examples of rare planes, such as the Airbus A300.
For now, more sanctions could be headed for Iran given its current crackdown on protestors, and it is unclear how long it will be before Lufthansa or Austrian return to the country.
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Source: DW, Iran International