Iran’s Mahan Air will start a new route to Phuket in Thailand from 6 December and will be the first non-stop flight to the island from the Middle East.

Flights will operate once a week, but this will be increased to twice a week once the carrier has received permission from the two governments.

Phuket is Mahan Air’s second destination in Thailand after Bangkok, which is currently served with nine weekly flights. Phuket also brings the airline’s total number of international destinations served to 16.

Mahan Air currently has a fleet of 30 aircraft and 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.

However, US-imposed sanctions are hindering efforts to expand. In July, the UK/Dutch Shell Group said it would not renew its contracts to supply jet fuel to Iranian airlines (MEED 30:8:10). The UK’s BP also said it had stopped supplying jet fuel to Iran’s national carrier Iran Air.