* Prices may differ from that shown
I really didn?t know what to expect from a flight on Iran Air; my imagination ran wild. A colleague of mine, who has flown with them several times, had told me that they are perfectly comfortable, the service reasonable and I would enjoy the flight. So early in 2003 I got the opportunity and took a flight from Tehran to Almaty, Kazakhstan, in Business Class. CHECK IN I was just in transit at Tehran, so didn?t experience the regular check in process. My inbound flight had arrived on time so I had about two hours in transit. It took a while to find where to check in but, with a little help it was done. Looking around the departures area of Tehran Airport I saw a reasonable sized duty free shop, a very basic cafe (a counter offering coffees and juice served in plastic cups). There were a couple of desks set up with PCs (the Internet Centre!). I heard a couple of people arguing with an airline representative that they wanted to use the business class lounge, and they could not seem to understand that the lounge was located before passport control so they had missed it! There were few signs if any to help me find the gate that the flight was departing from, and even once I found it, it was confusing. The signs were pointing to a different zone completely and, if someone had not pointed me to the gate just a few feet away, I would have missed it! It seemed that there were two flights using the same gate, and there were people there for both. I would have sworn that it was the wrong gate, so a good thing I had some help! Once I got to the gate agent I was ushered outside to a long, narrow sloping ramp down to the aircraft parking area. We queued back along the ramp until a bus came and took us to the aircraft. ON BOARD The aircraft was an Airbus A310, which from the outside looked clean and in good condition. Inside it was clean, tidy, a little world-worn, it seemed well cared for but it was not hard to guess t
hat it was not new! A steward greeted us at the door and pointed me to my seat - 1A. He said they were not full so I could choose another seat if I wanted, but I was I was perfectly happy with that. The seats in Business Class were in the standard 2-2-2 configuration - two seats on each side and two in the middle. The seats were wide and when I settled into mine it was quite comfortable. There was plenty of legroom, and looking behind I could see that there was plenty of room between rows. Later on, when I reclined my seat back, it went back a long way and there was a leg rest that came up so I was very laid back and comfortable. Before take off I was offered newspapers (all Iranian), juice or water, and an amenity kit. The kit was in an imitation leather, square shaped zip up bag, which looked promising! Inside there was not much - comb, toothbrush and some Iranian perfume or eau de cologne. There was a short video of some readings from the Koran, then into the safety briefing video. They came round to check that seatbacks were upright, seatbelts fastened etc. SERVICE I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude and friendliness of the crew. I really hadn?t known what welcome to expect on Iran Air but within minutes I felt quite at home. Most of the service was provided by a couple of stewards; there were some stewardesses as well, who were involved with the bar and meal services but otherwise I didn?t see much of them. Their uniforms were rather normal uniforms, with a high neckline, full length sleeves and ankle length skirts. The steward who provided most of the service spoke reasonable English. He was very pleasant, polite, always smiling. After the meal he came through the cabin regularly, checking if I wanted more to drink. I asked if I could keep the salt and pepper pots from the meal as a souvenir of my first Iran Air flight; he beamed and said of course and asked if I wanted any more fro
m the other trays! I declined of course! FOOD & DRINK The flight went from Tehran to Tashkent, which took about three hours, then after forty five minutes on the ground we carried on to Almaty which took another hour and a quarter. There was a full hot meal service on each sector, so nobody could have got off hungry. The meals were surprisingly good. There was a cold starter, with salad, then a choice of barbecued meats for the main course. They came round with a large plate full of pieces of chicken, lamb or beef, and served it from there directly onto my plate, so I could choose how many pieces I wanted of each, and what vegetables I wanted with it. This was a very nice touch - it?s a long time since I?ve been on a flight where they actually serve the food onto your plate by your seat. Normally it?s brought from the galley already on the plate. After that there was a choice of cakes or pastries for desert, and fruit, followed by tea or coffee. The meal on the second leg was quicker and simpler but also more than adequate and tasted good, fresh and well prepared. The bar service was a little more limited as, unsurprisingly, Iran Air are ?dry?, ie there is no alcohol served on board. They had a full selection of fruit juices, sodas (even Diet Coke, which is more than some airlines have) and both Arabic and western teas and coffees. SUMMARY I must say that Iran Air was much better than I had expected. I don?t know why I expected worse, it was probably unfair. I just imagined a much more basic service and, bearing in mind the sanctions that have been in places for years, I expected the aircraft to be in much worse condition. I wasn?t sure whether there would be any anti-European feeling or attitude. In all cases I was pleasantly surprised. The seat was very comfortable and remained so after five hours - I would have felt pretty comfortable in there for twice as long. The food was plentiful, fresh, tasty an
d served individually. The crew were warm, cheerful and friendly. I would certainly fly with them again given the chance.
One of the worst travelling experiences that I have ever had, It was truly the pits. It was so crowded you could hardly breath and the stench and the heat was quite an experience. On the journey out they made us wait an extra hour before take-off, which I thought was very unpleasent, thats until I experienced the 3 hour delay on the journey back in the unbearable morning heat and the pathetic AIR-conditioning systems. After such an awful start you would think, it can only get better, but you would be horribly mistaken. Initially you are entertained by the most turbulant flight since the Wright brothers and as if that wasn't enough you are forced to endure a devastatingly bad, century old, persian movie, with no subtitles in sight - probably a blessing in disguise. The food was the only redeeming thing about this hellish experience. To surmise I would like to swear an oath that I shall never, while there is still breath in my body, ever lay foot anywhere near anything even vaguely resembling Iran Airways.
For the price you pay, the service is excellent and the food is brilliant! And if you are actually traveling to Iran, they have an offer that you can get a return ticket for an internal journey free of charge once you buy a return ticket to Iran! I've ben travelling with other airlines too, and they are usually a rip off! sometimes you can get an indirect ticket cheaper, bt it's far too much hassle if you are carrying so many stuff and you got to change plane! And now about Iran Air, they always show a movie on board, which is usually an award winning one, and even though they stopped serving alcohol after the revolution, they have all sorts of fod and drink to keep you entertained! And they always have toys for kids to keep them busy! basicaly, I was hapy with it, and do recommend it!
Iran Air serve Tehran from Heathrow 3 times a week, and their direct flights can be considerably cheaper, especial in Business & First class, than BA - provided you buy from the right source. Where is the best place to buy tickets on Iran Air? This is my best advice based upon 10 years experience of selling discounted airline tickets - but if you think you already know everything, and just want to find out the cheapest place to buy it for this airline, then skip to the last paragraph! Lets face it, all airlines can get you from A to B, sometimes you have to change at C, sometimes you have to hang around at C, but if price is your main concern, read on .... First, as an ex-travel agent, let me explain how the system works. Nearly all airlines belong to a cartel known as IATA, which amongst other duties, helps to regulate the official prices between each pair of worldwide destinations. My first piece of advice is, never phone the airline for the official fare, except as a last resort - their staff are trained to extract the highest fare they can get away with, and they are never going to tell you that one of their competitors has a better deal, or that you can save money going the next or previous day. Furthermore, they can only sell at the officially agreed price. Luckily for us consumers, and unluckily for the airlines, they cannot sell all their seats at the official price, especially if a much better, more direct airline has the same price. For example, if the official fare to, say, Bangkok is £600 from airline A (non-stop in 12 hours) and the same price from airline B (19 hours with a 7 hour wait changing planes in Karachi airport) then it is obvious which will sell out first. In order to generate market share, less popular airlines will unofficially discount their fares through wholesalers known as "consolidators" - these can sometimes save you more than half of the officia
l fare. These consolidators appoint specialised agents, and sometimes you can even save more money if the consolidator will deal with you direct. You may be surprised to learn that, depending on the length of the journey, the consolidator is only charging you £10 - £40 more than the "factory" price given to them by the airline. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not risky to deal with these so called "bucket shops" - If they let you down, they can be heavily fined or even jailed - everything is covered by the government ATOL scheme, so it is a lot safer than, for example, paying for a three-piece suite in advance to a High Street furniture chain. To summarise, these are my recommendations: Contact the airline for their best official price, on 0207 409 0971 Call the consolidator on 0207 603 1246 (Facts Travel - ATOL 84109)