Iranian airline Mahan Air is unable to refuel at the UK’s Birmingham airport because the only two fuel suppliers operating there are American companies.

“We feel there is absolutely no justification for their actions since they have to supply civilian airlines in that airport,” says Hossein Hosseini, director of marketing and route development at the airline. “This is not an EU issue as it is an isolated case…we are going ahead with our plan of careful and selective expansion in western Europe as planned.”

It is proving to be a difficult year for Iranian airlines due to the fresh wave of sanctions that the US imposed on Iran in June. The sanctions ban the export of gas and petroleum products to Iran.

In July, the UK/Dutch Shell Group said it would not renew its contracts to supply jet fuel to Iranian airlines. The UK’s BP also said it had stopped supplying jet fuel to Iran’s national carrier Iran Air.

Mahan Air now plans to start flights to Shanghai in the first quarter of 2011. The carrier was initially hoping to start operations to Shanghai in 2010 (MEED 5:5:10). However, as it will be its first destination in China, the approval process is taking longer than expected.

Flights to Milan will also start once the airline has received approval.

Mahan Air is trying to expand its network to support the growth in passenger traffic. The airline carried more than 1.6 million passengers during the first six months of 2010, which represents a 49 per cent increase on the volume of passengers carried the year before.

A total of three million passengers used Mahan Air in 2009. The airline hopes to see this increase to 3.4 million in 2010 and up to about 8 million by 2015.