Mashhad Airport on course to break four million passengers in 2013; new flights to Al Najaf, Dubai and Sharjah

Iran Air, #3 for weekly flights at Mashhad International Airport, advertises its services on an airport bus.

Iran Air, #3 for weekly flights at Mashhad International Airport, advertises its services on an airport bus. However, the latest route launch inaugurated from the airport on 8 September (to Dubai) was courtesy of Mahan Air, which now offers twice-weekly A310 services to the UAE.

Mashhad International Airport (MHD), also known as Shahid Hashemi Nejad Airport, serves Iran’s second most populous city, Mashhad (2.77 million in the 2011 population census). The capital of the Razavi Khorasan Province is located in the north-east of Iran, close to the Afghanistan and Turkmenistan borders. The city was originally a small village called Sanabad and it later became known as Mashhad (which translates as “place of martyrdom”) following the burial of Imam Reza (Ali Al-Ridha), the seventh descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the eighth of the Twelve Imams. Today, the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad occupies a total area of 598,657 square metres, making it the largest mosque in the world by area, ahead of Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Mecca’s Masjid al-Haram.

Mashhad International Airport 2008-2013* Annual passengers (millions) and year-on-year growth

Source: MHD Airport/Mahan Air. * forecast for 2013

Despite a 12.9% decline in passenger traffic in 2011, it is clear that Mashhad has followed an overall growth trend since 2008. Noticeably, the airport experienced the highest growth in annual passengers (37.2%) between 2011 and 2012. Mashhad has posted traffic figures for the first half of 2013 of 2.03 million passengers. If Mashhad performs equally well in the second half of 2013, then the airport is on track to pass the four million passenger mark, with annual passengers predicted to total around 4.06 million.

Flights up 5.9% and Iran Air ranks third

As expected, three of Iran’s leading airlines control the top positions at Mashhad for both scheduled weekly frequencies and capacities. Overall, weekly flights are up at Mashhad by 5.9%. Combined, Iran Aseman Airlines, Iran Airtour Airline and Iran Air control 87.5% of weekly flights and 86.1% of weekly seats at Mashhad. Iran Aseman leads the weekly flights table, although the carrier is the only airline which has seen a decline, with two weekly flights less compared with the same week last year. Iran Aseman’s flights share is down (-3.4%) on the same period last year. However, it is still ahead of the second place carrier, Iran Airtour, by 12.9%.

Given the religious significance of Mashhad to Shia Muslims, the airport also attracts a significant volume of commercial charter flights, most notably from Iranian carrier Mahan Air. If these charter services were included in the airline rankings, then Mahan Air would be the #1 operator in terms of passenger volumes at the airport.

Ranking third for both flights and capacity, the Iranian flag carrier, Iran Air, recorded the biggest growth in weekly flights over the past twelve months (+4.1%), an additional 11 weekly flights. Iran Air has increased weekly frequencies to Tehran (18 to 20 weekly) and doubled services to Yazd (now twice-weekly). In addition, Iran Air which is the #2 carrier in Iran in terms of weekly flights, has added new domestic routes to; Ahwaz, Isfahan, Rasht, Tabriz (twice-weekly) and Ardabil (weekly). The carrier, which defines Mashhad as one if its focus cities, has reduced frequency to Birjand by a third (now twice-weekly).

Mashhad International Airport top 12 airlines Share of weekly flights and weekly capacity

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi, w/c 17 September 2013

Overall capacity at Mashhad is up 6.7% on the same period last year. In the last year, Mashhad has maintained the same number of airlines (12). Nevertheless, Iraqi Airways and Air Arabia have been added to the list, introducing services to Al Najaf in Iraq and Sharjah in the UAE; while Gulf Air and Avia Traffic Company have pulled out of Mashhad, dropping Bahrain and Bishkek respectively, the only services offered by each carrier.

Iran Airtour holds the largest capacity share at Mashhad (0.3% greater than Iran Aseman). The subsidiary of the Iranian flag carrier has taken Iran Aseman’s leading capacity spot in 2013, with the highest share of weekly seats. Iran Airtour has however maintained the exact number of weekly seats as the same week last year, only moving into first place because Iran Aseman offers 1,494 less weekly seats than in the same week last year. The biggest capacity growth at Mashhad was seen by Iran Air, which offers 64.1% more weekly seats in 2013 than last year. Even with such significant growth, Iran Air remains in third place and has increased its weekly capacity share at Mashhad by 8.2%.

Tehran represents 37.5%

Mashhad serves eleven other countries, with domestic services accounting for 58.3% of the 39 destinations served worldwide (82.9% weekly seat share). When comparing weekly seats data for 17-23 September 2013, with the same week last year, Mashhad has maintained its top three destinations, Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz, albeit slightly reshuffled. Tehran, the Iranian capital city (excluded from the chart below) has held onto the #1 spot with 12,141 weekly seats, 439 fewer than the same week last year, reducing its weekly seat share to 37.5% (-3.9%). Isfahan, in second place and Shiraz in third, have both swapped positions in the weekly seats rankings compared with the same week in 2012. The two domestic destinations witnessed weekly seat share changes of +0.4% and -2.1% respectively.

Mashhad International Airport top 12 destinations Weekly Seats

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi 17-23 September

Within the top 12, there are just three international destinations (highlighted); Dammam, Doha and Istanbul. These international routes are the only destinations offered in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Bushehr in Iran and Kuwait City have slipped out of the top 12 compared with last year, moving into 13th and 14th, allowing Kish Island and Tabriz (two new domestic destinations) to move into the chart.

Outside of the domestic market, which makes up the majority share of destinations, Doha in Qatar comes first with a 3.3% share of weekly seats, closely followed by Turkey (3.1%). Lebanon, Pakistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan combined account for 2.9% of weekly seats, each with a 1% or less share. Iran can be proud of its aviation industry as Mashhad looks set to continue growing in the future.


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