Review: Unforgettable Iran Air 747 Classic Experience

This Trip Report is dedicated to all Iranian spotters and Iranian people for their remarkable hospitality!

Trip Video

To fly B747-SP or B747-100/200?
 

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.
A big scheduling task
 

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.
Almost Despair and heart sinking
 

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.
Ticketed!
 

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.

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EP-IAM operated the Saturday service, as seen in Dubai.

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Good Morning IKA

I woke up at 4:40am. 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.

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Economy check in area was by flight (not common check-in) for Iran Air.

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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)

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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.

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I proceed to the Business Class lounge underneath the café. It was a comfy, open air lounge with some breakfast on offer.

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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!

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The comfortable lounge.

IMG_4108 Some pasta salad and blood orange juice as a starter.

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Many models were on display.

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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.

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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.

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Boarding IR659

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.

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Busy morning activity at IKA.

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Iran Air dominated IKA traffic.

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Snapping photos of everything…..

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Unexpectedly, our bus stopped in front of EP-IAG (B747-286BM) “Azarabadgan” Oh….!

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Unexpected

So it turned out we are flying the B747-200 instead today. That was unexpected at all. I was in denial for about a minute. But quickly my enthusiasm came back! A B747-200 classic is also very rare these days. I knew that as a fact this plane is actually older than her B747-100 brother! I was the last passenger got off the bus and join the rest of passenger onto the stairs to board the plane.

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A very pleasant crew welcomed me at the door and guided me to my seat in 5A. My mood lifts up immediately when I boarded the B747-200 classic! It was immaculate, it was nostalgic, it was grand and I was the ONLY passenger today in Homa Class. I will have the whole cabin to myself!

A slight delay but photos were OK!

We have a slight delay. Push back and engine start did not start until 8:40am. (STD was 8am) so I took the opportunity to befriend with the Iran Air crew knowing Iranian hospitality are among the best in the World. They were amazed at my travel stories and enthusiasm on Iran Air B747 classics. They invited me for photos, asking me to stand on the staircase getting picture and explore around the whole cabin.

I have convinced the chief security in-flight to take a photo of me at the door!

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The beautiful EP-IAM B747-186B is getting prepared as well.

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I was the only passenger and can have the whole cabin to myself! Very well maintained and neat!

A welcome drink of Orange Juice and an Amenity Kit (Mashad Leather) was also offered! It was truly incredible. Not even Emirates or Singapore Airlines give you an amenity kit in Business Class for a 1hr 45mins flight!

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The kind purser took more picture of me. I was like a kid in the playground! I keep changing seats and they were stunned but don’t seem to mind at all!

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With the TV resetting the program on display, we are ready to depart!

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EP-IAG

First Delivered 5.10.1976

Age 35.7 years old

IR659 Tehran Dubai

Capacity 22J/413Y

Pax No: 1J/112Y

Getting Ecstatic!

At 8:40am, the staircase was pulled and we were ready for push back. After push back, the wonderful sound of JT9D-7F came to live. I was ecstatic and knowing that I am already in heaven. Who cares if it isn’t a B747-100B, at least I flew with it before. Shortly before taxiing, I moved seats to a window seat in Economy to try to get photos of the engines/wings on climb out. Surprisingly, the crew actually encourages me to take photos during take-off! “Please feel it like home, this is your home!” Sure, I was running around the cabin from front to middle when it was taxiing. Which other airline allows you to do this?

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EP-IAM, the B747-100B push back at the same time, I believe it is operating a re-positioning flight to Mehrabad. How cool to have 2 B747 classic push back together!

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Lining up on Rwy29R.

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A Turkish Air A330-200 taxi to follow us.

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Wonderful Take-off and Climb

At 8:51am , all four JT9D-7F roars and we were airborne within 20 seconds from Rwy29R of IKA follow by an immediate left bank towards the South heading to Shiraz, then Persian Gulf before landing into Dubai. The flying time was 1hr35minutes and cruising altitude at 35,000 feet.

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Enjoy the best Iranian hospitality on offer

After photographing the takeoff, I moved back to Homa Class and it’s time now to enjoy the best Iranian hospitality on offer. I moved seat from 5A to 1K and recline the chair completely to relax. The seat have only 2 button, one to recline and one lever to pull for the leg rest to come up! It was simple mechanism at its best. The seat was perfectly comfortable and unlike many other recliners, the leg rest does come up fully and supporting the leg well. I have absolutely no problem sitting on this chair for a long haul 10+ hours flight.

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Demonstrating the seat in full recline position.

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A photo from Seat 1K.

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Such an elegant spiral staircase. Why can’t we have this on the new B747 and A380?

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So Retro! Lovely all the buttons and dials!

Fine Food on offer with gift to take home with…

Meal Service started straight away after I made myself comfortable. The single tray contains 3 different types of bread, yogurt and fruit, all neatly presented. While nothing special, I ate the bread and thinking this is all the meal because of the short flight.

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The purser came around and asked, “What would you like for your main course?” I was stunned, I thought that one tray of bread and yogurt was it! “We have vegetable, steak and Persian food”. I chose steak and it was the best breakfast steak I ever have in my life! (Mind you I am not an easy person to satisfy on topic of food)

Here is the main course!

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Lovely cooked steak. Love both the presentation and the flavor. It was tender, well cooked but weren’t overcooked.

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I finished the meal with a cup of tea, of course! (With the famous Iranian sugar square block). Now what’s missing? Looking around, I found it very hard to resist the fine bone China with Iran Air logo on every single item. I want to take them home so I politely asked the purser, and his response was “they’re now yours!!!!” He came back and gave me few more items. It was very heartwarming, I can feel the generosity come from the bottom of his heart and I was left in awe.

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Scenic views!

At the meantime, while enjoying the fine food on offer; I also enjoyed the views our B747 flew past, we took a Southerly track after departed from Tehran, passing Shiraz and one can see the snow capped mountain range (Zargos Mountain?) along the route. It was a pure pleasure eating the fine piece of steak while watching the views from the window to go past.

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After the meal service, I took the opportunity to walk around the cabin and get some more photo of the B747 wing. Here are more pictures of the B747 classic beauty.

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Every B747 flight should be completed with the wing photo!

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The wing was so clean; Iran Air put many world class airlines to shame on the appearance of their planes!

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Cabin Tour

I further explored the plane by walking from front to back several times.

Taken from the last centre row, I believe it was row 54.

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Very light load means a lot of room and free to explore. Forward Economy section where the curve of nose starts to appear.

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The onboard Pray area immediately behind Door 1L.

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Back to my own cabin!

You can see from the picture she is well maintained. (I believe she went through a major overhaul a year or two ago)

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A cabin map of EP-IAG mounted on the wall.

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Before we started our descend, the captain handed back my log book. It was my utmost pleasure to be onboard Iran Air!

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At about 9:45am UAE time, we started our descend.

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End of a unforgettable flight

By this time, we were over water just before the coast of UAE. The weather was unusually overcast. Deira and the Burj Khalifa was clearly insight.

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We flew past the airport on downwind, then a big 180 turn over the dessert before line up to approach on Runway 30L of Dubai Int’l airport.

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Over the UAE desert.

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Over Emirates Road at Mirdif before touch down!

At 10:10am, the B747 classic made a gentle and smooth touchdown.

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Back to where everything is Emirates……

With a short taxi to the gate, my journey has come to an end. I was the first to get off the plane, and within 8 minutes I was out on the street of Dubai and head back to work straight away!

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The last picture of “Azarabadgan”.

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Thank you Iran Air

Thank you Iran Air. It was a sheer pleasure and reminded me why I love Aviation so much!

Although a short journey, but since I have made a real effort to fly the B747 classic, the dividend paid off tasted extra sweet. The memory of Iran and Iran Air will have a long lasting impression in me. It was a perfect flight and I enjoyed so much that I can’t describe or explain. I feel extremely privileged and thankful to the great Iranian Hospitality Iran Air offers. I do not have one sour note because of I flew the B747-200 instead of the B747-100. Instead of being negative, I have overcame it and definitely made the most out of the situation. I enjoyed every moment of it and I was still very excited when I type this trip report.

Iran, despite all the negative publicity and propaganda around her, is an absolutely fascinating destination. It was so unforgettable even spending a few hours there. I have travelled throughout Asia and the Middle East and few countries can be compared with Iran, created such long lasting impression in myself. I am not at all afraid. You have to go to Iran, to see the reality of the country and what has it got to offer.

I am looking forward to my next Iran Air ride later on this month, onboard the B747SP from IKA-KUL-IKA

Trip Video

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