DUBAI: Mahan Air continued to fly to four Chinese cities in the past three weeks, and may have contributed to the steep rise in coronavirus cases in Iran, belying claims from officials the Revolutionary Guard-owned carrier has stopped servicing those routes.
The coronavirus death toll in Iran has reached 1,135, with 147 fatalities in the past 24 hours on Wednesday. Iran’s number of infected people from coronavirus also climbed to 17,361, state TV reported.
Broadcast service Radio Farda has collected online information, including from flight-tracking websites such as Flightradar24, to show Mahan Air has not suspended its China operations, with the latest flight details even showing Flight W576 from Shanghai was scheduled to land at Imam Khomeini Airport of Tehran at 6:31a.m. local time on February 25.
“Our investigation revealed that from February 4 to February 22 Mahan Air flew at least fifty-five times to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen and back to Iran from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport,” Radio Farda said.
In an Instagram post on February 23, Mahan Air said it had last flown to China on February 3 and 4. Iran’s aviation officials also claimed the government has suspended all flights to and from China, aside from authorized flights to evacuate students and other Iranian nationals as well as a few cargo flights, all of them under the supervision of health authorities.
Reports Mahan Air flights to China despite the ban have drawn criticism from lawmakers and the public.
A member of Iran’s Parliament on Tuesday said flights between Iran and China have not stopped despite the official ‘suspension’ of flights.
Mahan airline, partly owned by the Revolutionary Guard, was designated by the US Treasury in 2011 for “facilitating its support to terrorism across the Middle East.”
Mahan’s regular flights to Syria are used to prop up the Assad regime and deliver weapons, foreign fighters, and Iranian operatives who sow violence and unrest across the region,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.