Unforgettable Iran Air 747 Classic Experience
This Trip Report is dedicated to all Iranian spotters and Iranian people for their remarkable hospitality!
Iran Air operates several B747-100/200 Classics (B747-100 EP-IAM, and B747-200 EP-IAG, EP-IAH, EP-IAI) and four B747SPs (EP-IAA,EP-IAB,EP-IAC,EP-IAD)
The B747-100/200s were not scheduled on any particular route currently. Apart from Hajj flight, IR operates them on Ad hoc basis when the travel demands are high. On the contrary to get on a Iran Air B747SP was a lot easier task, Iran Air fly them on regular schedule basis to Mumbai, Istanbul, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur etc.
Because of the unpredictable pattern on the B747-100/200 classic operations, it has become a difficult task to fly on them. The B747 classics have been seen flying into Jeddah, Dubai, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing from time to time. Sometimes the ship change takes place on last minute basis making one impossible to plan to fly the classics. Since I have flown the Iran Air SP eight years ago, my interests to fly their B747 classic are growing day by day.
During the Iranian New Year (Nowruz) this year, Iran Air has scheduled a B747 on Tehran – Dubai – Tehran daily for about 10 days. I found it out towards the end of the period on Friday 30th March and have decided to jump on the opportunity immediately. My friend UKDispatcher and I tried every possible ways to purchase a ticket on a Friday (which is a holiday in Middle East) in UAE and we have failed at all our attempts. It seems no travel agents were able to issue Iran ticket themselves without going through Iran Air office which was closed that day. We were thinking to fly overnight on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Tehran then connect the B747 classic to Dubai. (A cool way to go from Abu Dhabi to Dubai instead of by car) But our plan couldn’t be executed without a Iran Air confirmed ticket.
So with a disappointed heart, I went to bed still thinking about the possibility of getting on the B747 classic. I woke up next day and decide to drive to Dubai to see which B747 classic (whether the 100 or 200 series) actually operated that day.
I drove 3 hours that day (1.5 hrs each way) to and back from Dubai just to confirm the type and reg. of A/C operating. I can’t stop thinking about ways to get on this plane when I was driving. I saw EP-IAM, B747-186B approach 15 minutes before its schedule arrival time when I was driving over the highway. I later managed a distant photo of her taxiing out for departure. I was excited and convinced that if I can find a way, I will be able to fly another B747-100 which I have only flown twice in the past before.
EP-IAM operated the Saturday service, as seen in Dubai.
Due to the heavy passenger traffic going back to Iran towards the end of the Iranian new year holidays, the Iran Air B747 flight were totally booked out on all days. The only possible way is to fly Tehran – Dubai in one single direction which means I need to travel with another airline to Tehran and return with Iran Air.
A quick call was made to Emirates but the phone agent told me their flights (all 3 daily flights) were heavily oversold and no seat was available from Dubai to Tehran. A few other airlines were also sold out despite upsized their equipment from the usual A320s to B777-300/ER (Qatar and Etihad). Needless to say, it seems like the whole World wanted to go to Tehran at the same time! I was left despaired and went for a nap. I was planning to abandon the whole plan because it just ain’t happening at all!
After waking up in a few hours, I re-checked Emirates website, this time 1 seat in Economy was available on Sunday 1/4 (the next evening). It was like a small miracle and brought colours to life again. I reserved the seat straight away and plan to go to Iran Air office the next day to get my Iran Air ticket issued and fly out of Dubai that evening to Iran.
The next morning came and things were busy but very smooth. Everything falls into the right place. I met with the lovely Ms Afsaneh at Iran Air GSA office and she had issued my Iran Air ticket within 10 minutes. I have also purchased several more for my later IKA-KUL-IKA B747SP trip and one for UKdispatcher.
Afsaneh at Iran Air Abu Dhabi GSA office cleaned her table and dressed up just for a photo! She was very kind.
With successful purchases of all ticket, my journey now looks like:
1/April EK977 Dubai Tehran B77L 1845 2125
2/April IR659 Tehran Dubai B747 0800 0945
Although I have previously visited Iran twice, once in 2004 and once in 2006. I was under the impression I may no longer able to get a Visa on Arrival (VOA). On IATA visa requirement it mentioned I must have an Electronic Visa Number issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Iran. When I visited their website, it said it was still under construction!
I have called the Embassy of Iran in UAE to confirm with the official who said I am still able to obtain one on arrivals. That cleared the last hurdle of me going into Iran and I will definitely going back many more times. I was also worried about Emirates agents insist on an Iran Visa at check-in, as if they would know the rules and believe I could obtain a VOA in Tehran. Inshallah!
I used the excellent Emirates Business Class lounge as a Gold Skywards member before flight though I was in Economy class. But my mind was so sharp and can’t relax much at all!
The lounge was quite empty as there aren’t many flights depart in early evening.
EK977 departs during the non hub hours of Emirates as you can see on the display above.
It was operated by a 3 class B772, A6-EMK, fully packed. Nothing out of ordinary on the flight except it was ship changed last minute from a B777-200/LR to a B777-200/ER.
Fully packed in all cabins.
With only 12 minutes to Tehran! I got very excited that I am coming back to Iran for the third time glory!
I arrived Tehran on time at 9:25pm and received my VOA only 20 minutes after the landing.
The arrival scenes at IKA. Things are much improved and civilized than my previous visit when it first opened in 2006.
Arrival screen of IKA. Full of traffic in the evening otherwise a very quiet airport. “IKA was London Heathrow only after dark” said Taha
Within 30 minutes, I was out and greeted by my Iranian friend, Sharham, Taha and Mohammed.
A group photo at IKA.
IKA at night.
I have informed my Iranian friends about my coming last minute and was very happy to see all of them waited for me at Imam Khomeini Airport, which is at least 40 minutes from the city itself. There were no hotels near IKA for overnight. (one was under construction and linking the terminal). Sharham have a perfect program line up for me; first we will drive to Mehrabad (the domestic airport of Tehran) and then we will stay under the approach light path and watch some arrivals. Once I get tired, we will go to the airport hotel which is inside the airport itself.
With 3 Iranian spotters under the approach at Mehrabad, the place has not changed since my last visit 6 years ago!
Terminal 1 of Mehrabad Airport. It is not used anymore.
A Paykan. I love the shape of this car. It is also getting rarer these days in Iran. I remember it was full of Paykan and its heavy gasoline exhaust smell on the streets of Tehran when I first visited in 2004.
The hotel is situated right next to the control tower. There were about 10 rooms and offer a limited view of the domestic ramp. It is a new hotel with decent accommodation.
The view from the room! Not bad at all!
I woke up at 4:40am the next day. A pre-arranged taxi driver came and took me back to IKA. It was a 40 minutes smooth ride on the Persian Gulf Highway. Arrived at the terminal at around 5:45am and it was full of people inside the terminal. Many flights were departing in early morning.
Morning departure flights on display.
Economy check in area was by flight (not common check-in) for Iran Air.
Check in was smooth at the dedicated Iran Air Homa Class common check-in counter 47-48.
The lady handed me a boarding pass with Seat 1A on it but she told me seat 1B was reserved so I request to change to seat 5A, the last row in the nose area of the B747. Another lady wrote me a lounge invitation card (looks like a lottery ticket or a meal voucher actually)
After the check-in, I proceed with immigration. It was chaotic with people trying to push in front of each other. Only one line was opened for Foreign passport holder. There was a German guy who refuse having people push in front and argument were broke out. I waited over 30 mins and glad the wait was over.
I proceed to the Business Class lounge underneath the café. It was a comfy, open air lounge with some breakfast on offer.
All airlines use this lounge. I think this is the only lounge in IKA (not sure)
A decent amount of food and drinks were on offer, include ice cream!
The comfortable lounge.
Some pasta salad and blood orange juice as a starter.
Many models were on display.
The sun rise at about 6:30am. I can see 2 B747 classics (EP-IAG, EP-IAM) were parked next to each other on the remote ramp. At this point, I was confident that EP-IAM, B747-100B will be operating the flight to Dubai due to cargo loading activity.
EP-IAM getting prepared. I believe it was loading the flight to Dubai.
After the lounge, I proceed to the gate; I really like the Iranian airport system
You can see red/green light for each boarding gate which means whether it is open or not.
At Gate 22 (changed from gate 21 last minute), boarding started at 7:30am with about 100 plus passengers board through Iran Air bus for remote bay one by one….
We were bused out to the plane. Passing the B747SP EP-IAD which operates to Istanbul that morning and drive across the taxiway.
Busy morning activity at IKA.
Iran Air dominated IKA traffic.
Snapping photos of everything…..
Unexpectedly, our bus stopped in front of EP-IAG (B747-286BM) “Azarabadgan” Oh….!