Norwegian’s Very Complicated Iran Diversion

Filed Under: Norwegian

Recently I wrote about the nightmare experience suffered by Air France passengers en route from Paris to Shanghai.

They were stuck in Siberia, Russia, for several days after their original aircraft and then relief aircraft suffered one unfortunate mishap after another.

Norwegian has taken delivery of five Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, with a further massive 95 on order. These aircraft have opened up new route possibilities, including several transatlantic routes from Ireland and the UK to the northeast USA, that have so far had mixed success.

Although we write a lot about Norwegian’s long haul operations between Europe and the US here at OMAAT, they also operate seasonal flights to Dubai from Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm, using their 737 MAX aircraft. These flights are a similar length to some of their transatlantic routes using the same aircraft type.

Given how new these aircraft are, passengers might expect there to be less chance of mechanical issues with the aircraft, than if they were on, say a very old Allegiant plane.

On Friday, flight DY1933 departed from Dubai International Airport bound for Oslo. It was operated by a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, registration LN-BKE, that was less than two months old.

Only 20 minutes into the flight, the aircraft suffered a problem with one CFM International LEAP 1B engine, according to Flightradar24.

Rather than turning back to Dubai, it made an emergency landing in… Shiraz, Iran.

It must have been a pretty serious engine issue not to return to Dubai, given the ground staff and facilities they already had there.

This was apparently the first time a Norwegian Air plane had ever landed in Iran. I’d love to visit Iran myself though under different circumstances to how these passengers came to be there!

Fortunately the passengers were able to leave the airport and were taken to a local hotel to wait for a relief aircraft to arrive. You do hear some horror stories about passengers being kept airside for many hours as they are not able to enter the country without the necessary visa approvals.

The passengers on the flight that were either Norwegian or from nearby European countries, are eligible for a visa on arrival in Iran.

Given Norwegian has no staff on the ground in Iran they seem to have done a pretty decent job at looking after their passengers.

What’s particularly interesting about this situation is how the faulty aircraft might get back to Oslo or Europe.

I believe this particular faulty engine type was built as a joint venture between GE in the US, and Safran Aircraft Systems in France. But there are trade sanctions between both the US and EU (so France), and Iran, so if a spare part is required to repair the engine, it may not be as easy as just arranging for the parts to be sent from either the US or France to Iran.

It raises some interesting questions:

  • If repair parts are required, can they be sent from the US or the EU to Iran given the sanctions? If not, would an exception be made in this case?
  • Or will Norwegian just try and fly the plane without passengers to a neighbouring country where it will be easier to perform any necessary repairs?
  • And given the passengers entered the country, presumably with a visa on arrival, does this mean they are no longer eligible for an ESTA if they visit the US?

I’ll be very interested to see how and when the aircraft manages to return to Europe.

  1. Unfortunately they will be prohibited from travelling to the US on a ESTA if they confirm being on Iranian soil even if involuntarily,especially if there is a stamp in their passports

  2. Shiraz if a city full of wonders. If they are able to visit some of them, then loosing ESTA won’t matter. There are mosques, palaces, ancient archeological sites. Everything is awesome. One of the main places to visit in Iran. If they only go to the hotel, it may not be worth it as Iran struggles with its hotels: most of them are not good.

  3. Umm US citizens can visit Iran. It won’t prevent them. Also Iran has a policy of providing a separate paper with your visa and m doesn’t stamp passports so that you won’t have an issue traveling to Israel or some other Arab countries.

  4. Lots of false miss information… 1st, US passport holders can visit Iran and have a Iranian visa in thier passport.

    2nd, a 737 can takeoff with one engine

    3rd if they need a part, they can get a special exemption from sanctions

  5. Great article, all very interesting. My friend was on the flight, seemed to be handled very well.

    Interesting questions, particularly on the ESTA

  6. “in… Shiraz, Iran, of all places.”

    Many pointed out the inaccuracies in this short piece. Also, one expects from a travel blog to be a little more open-minded and distant from the narrow and stereotypical language we see elsewhere. Iran is a beautiful country with a very long history. Every indication shows that the passengers were treated extremely well. Just imagine if a group of Iranians had the same situation in the US with Muslim ban and everything (I know it’s geographically unlikely, but just for the sake of argument). Do you think CBP would have allowed them to come in and wait until the situation is resolved? The answer is a simple and loud NO!

    Maybe a little shift in point of view and language would be helpful here.

  7. @ Sam – I didn’t mention anything about US passport holders. And I suggested the plane might fly with one engine (without passengers)?

  8. @ PhDTravel – nothing against Iran – I’d love to visit there myself. I’ll update the article to reflect that.

    This story caught my interest because Iran is a unique place to divert to given both the sanctions, and potential complications of an Iranian entry visa for future travel.


  9. This is a rather uninformed post, at least the questions at the end.

    Of course technicians can be sent to Iran. This has not really anything to do with the sanctions.

    Norwegian could also bring in parts, even though that might be a bit more tricky, but as mentioned exceptions can be made in such cases, even though i am not entirely sure if a breach of sanctions would even be the case.

    And of course people who travelled on this flight and entered Iran are now not eligible for travelling to the US on ESTA anymore. However i am quite sure that the circumstances can be explained in the process of getting a US Visa.

  10. When British Airawys flt BA9 had the volcanic ash incident and diverted to Jakarta, a number of passengers were not permitted to eneter Indonesia. Think it was because they were Jewish. Remember the entire crew stayed at airport with those passenger until they were flown out.
    Doesn’t matter what the issue may be, some countries will still refuse admission

  11. There is a difference between an ESTA and a US Visa. My company is based in Europe and we have customers throughout the world, including Iran. A few months ago one of our VPs was able to get a US Visa in his Swiss passport, just 2 pages from his Iranian Visa! Just required a trip to the US embassy and some questions, but overall not so bad. No hassles on arrival to IAD either.

  12. @knlprez the issue is that it’s a lot less hassle to pay $14 and do a quick online application for an ESTA, as opposed to the alternative of filling in a visa application and having to schedule an appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate. All to explain why you had travelled to Iran. Yes the explanation is perfectly reasonable in this case and they would be approved, but these passengers will have to continue to apply for US Visas in advance for the rest of their lives, unless the USA changes the law.

  13. My friend who has a Japanese passport holder visited Iran twice, had no problem obtaining a US visit visa on the same passport, without even being questioned much. He said having a visa was actually better since it allows 5 years (or may be it was 10) of unlimited travel to the US without going through the hassles of registering every detail online for ESTA.

    Shiraz Airport – being a tourist hub as well, it’s one of busy international airports in the country. Turkish and Qatar also fly there. Even has two runways over 4,000 meters.

  14. As stated before, Iran is a beautiful country with really nice people. So James, go there, and you should include Shiraz in your itinerary as well.

    I do requiere a Visa for the United States so having gone to Iran before have not changed anything. For ESTA guys, they do need a Visa to US after Iran, but is totally worth it.

  15. Yeah, very bad take, especially for a non-American. Like, I get it when my countrypeople are dismissive of Iran; 85% of the US doesn’t even know where it is on the map. But Australians are too educated and progressive to be this ignorant.

  16. Interesting.. I want to visit Iran and I’ve been reluctant to go due to the ESTA topic.

    But considering this discussion, having a 10-year Tourist (B) Visa to the US would be much more convenient than the 2-year ESTA so perhaps it’s to visit..

  17. Here’s what taking off w/ one engine means. It means that at V1 (point of no return), if one engine failed, the plane would still be able to continue the take off. It says nothing about being able to use one engine the whole time. An engine failure makes the aircraft unairworthy, any operation with such aircraft is against aviation regulations.

  18. Iran might be a beautiful country with some great people, long history and rich past. However nowadays , the Iranian regime is massively involved in promoting and sponsoring organized terror groups and tries to infeltrate it’s neighboring countries and plent satellite of its corrupt regime in them. It impresses it’s own people with levels compared only to North Korea.
    While a kind handling might be just human , I would urge all of you not to get confused. You would not want your doughter to grow up under this regime. The sunctions are nessacery.

  19. @ Ben

    replace ‘Iran’ with ‘US’ and read it again. It would make your statement a lot more correct. A clear and undisputed #1 in terms of meddling and interfering in countries around the world.

    (and you can leave out ‘nowadays’; it started pre-WW2 already, read your history)

  20. @Robert Schrader
    I’m sure it feels good to be a bigot. Perhaps you achieved nothing in your life, but you surely feel yourself superior to all these people you hate.

  21. @ron not to be blunt, but if it hadn’t been for our meddling, everyone in Europe would be speaking German. No doubt some of our meddling has been self-serving, of limited success, and damaging to the countries involved. But we do not promote or sponsor terrorist groups. Comparing the US and Iranian governments in this regard is insulting to the intelligence.

  22. Not sure how pointing out a commonly known fact (that most Americans know/care little about the world outside the United States) makes me a bigot.

  23. Iran seems interesting. I have Iranian co-workers and have seen beautiful photos to the point that I was looking at a tour for 2020. I’m eligible for visa on arrival if I use my Euro passport, though to enter the US I only use my Canadian one (no visa requirements) would I encounter any issues with this strategy?

  24. @Andy 11235

    On the contribution of the US to liberate Europe no dispute of course; not to forget all others esp Sowjet Union who played a massive role here.

    On the rest of your statement we could have an interesting discussion but this blog is clearly not the place for that.
    In case you want to dig a bit, the simple way to discovery is ‘follow the money’. I always prefer to hear or see both sides of a story before making my mind up.

  25. James I would also love to visit Iran I have heard alot of nice things about it I heard they are hospitable, food is great and stuff so yeah lets hope we both get to go someday

  26. Unfortunately the passengers entered Iran so no more ESTA for them – they probably were better off staying airside. Getting a US visa is highly inconvenient compared to getting an ESTA approval.
    Even for someone who lives near a US Consulate, a visa application means a half-day leave. For those who needs long-distance travel, it could mean more than one day off.

  27. With all due respect @James, I think you don’t really understand how international sanctions work with respect to technology and aircraft parts in particular.

    To keep things short, the key to being compliant is the “end user certification” which basically states that you can take the sanctioned material INTO a country, but with the proviso that it will be controlled by the buyer and that it is for the specific declared purpose that does not benefit a sanctioned entity. Every Boeing operator has to basically affirm this for every single part purchased, regardless of whether it is being shipped to Iran or Idaho.

    The way this will work is that an AOG team from Norwegian and/or its AMO will put together the parts and tooling they need for the job and then fly out to the aircraft to fix it. It will then be ferried home most likely and re-enter service once fully airworthy. This happens dozens of times a week all over the world. Sanctions are less of an issue in this case than the host country’s logistical processes. To be honest, I’d much rather take a diversion into an airport like Shiraz in Iran than to any secondary airport in Saudi Arabia for instance.

  28. @Ben

    You are correct. Notwithstanding the fact that Iran persecutes religious minorities , hangs homosexuals, imprisons women for removing their veil, jails innocent journalists, destabilizes its neighbors, exports missile technology, and funds terrorism, I am sure it is a lovely place to visit.

  29. @Charles R –

    “Persecutes religious minorities” – try searching “Armenian church Isfahan”. Iran has one of the most beautiful churches and the rights of Christians, Jews, and the like are protected under Iranian constitution. Iranian Parliament (or Majlis) even has a seat for a very small Jewish minority.

    “Exports missile technology” – Hmm… I’m sure there are plenty of other countries doing that.

    I have a feeling you are confused with another country.

  30. @hiro I googled this in 10sec; perhaps you are not aware of what Iran does to Zoastrians, Bahais, or homosexuals but I assume you are and choose to obfuscate and deflect. Iran is run by fascist ideologues attempting to spread shia hegemony.

  31. OMAAT should have a Christmas competition for one reader to travel to Iran at its expense to do a (politics aside) open and honest review of somewhere like Shiraz assuming none of the team want to volunteer

  32. @Dave S

    I was supposed to have been there in November (Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan and northern mountains).
    Unfortunately something came up and I had to cancel. Will go later.
    Oman Air had very attractive BC flight to Tehran at the time.

  33. I spent over two weeks in Iran last year, and wrote openly and candidly about my experience. It is a beautiful country, yes, and people are kind, but it’s difficult to deny that there’s a simmering tension there, or to be pretend like the government gives two shits about human rights.

    You can read my main post, within which I link to several others, here:

  34. Love how Hiro just skipped right over “hangs homosexuals,” “imprisons women for removing their veil,” “jails innocent journalists,” “destabilizes its neighbors,” and “funds terrorism” because he has no response at all.

    But they have a very nice church there!

  35. Hiro – the ESTA takes ten minutes to apply for, and you can do it from your sofa. Even doing that 4 times is exponentially less hassle than arranging and visiting a US Embassy. I have no idea how your friend could possibly find that less hassle (unless they are incapable of using a computer?)!

    James – What EU sanctions? Isn’t the EU famously actively fighting the US sanctions on Iran and is openly attempting to facilitate companies that want to break them? Or are the EU still upholding aircraft related sanctions?

    @CharlesR – Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things when compared to what the US does though. Which doesn’t make it remotely acceptable, it just makes me question the “it’s great to visit the US but not Iran” angle.

    In fact, I’d go as far as to say Iran is to the US as the US is to the civilised world (including large parts of Western Europe amongst others).

    Perhaps we should be advising people not to visit the barbaric US who puts little kids in cages and loses their parents, refuses to give adequate medical care to its people (but GUNS ARE CRUCIAL), locks up huge numbers in barbaric conditions, kidnaps people abroad and holds them indefinitely without charge while torturing them, has a murderous domestic military force (aka police) etc. etc. I could go on all day!

  36. The comments section is filled with sanctions on Iran US visa issues ESTA etc etc.

    The main issue here is with the brand new 737 MAX planes. One went down in Indonesia and now this diversion where the pilots deemed it so serious that they did not want to turn back to DXB which would have been about 30 mins till landing instead they landed in the nearest airport.


    320neo planes also have issues with the P&W engines but those are being sorted. What is Boeing doing about the problems with 737MAX ?

  37. People who wish to visit nations that might cause a problem in third countries usually carry two passports. Problem solved.

  38. SS – it’s not really the main issue here as it’s just speculation. While you’ve linked it to another incident, there’s not a single scrap of evidence that they’re related or it’s a systemic issue.

  39. @kmb but then applying ESTA as if one never went to Iran runs a huge risk – it would be grossly misrepresenting oneself to US Government. It comes with criminal implications and if caught, likely no more visit to the US for entire life.

  40. I was one of the passengers on this airplane. Iran showed us exceptional hospitality and cultural tolerance.

    All the passengers that were headed to the US have landed. There were no issues for US citizens or EU citizens. Everyone speculating that has been wrong.

  41. Iran is beautiful. I am a US citizen and I traveled to Iran before. While I am not endorsing this to any US citizen, I did not face any difficulty while in Iran. I had to go through a secondary screening during vacation to the US (I live in Asia), but a small price to pay for travel to such a beautiful and culturally rich country.

  42. This plane is still in Iran, and it looks like it won’t leav the country in many days, so it wil soon have spent more than halve its life in iran. If this lasts longer they wil have to change their tale hero to Khomeini.

    Another good reason to “Buy American”

  43. I am from Shiraz and i can say that the story of Norwegian Airline was one of the hot news of Shiraz in that time. Because a new American made aircraft landed there and was not able to leave due to sanctions.
    Also, despite covering hair is mandatory for all ladies in Iran due to islamic rules after 1979 revolution but this time all ladies could enter the country with shorts and uncovered hair which was a good news for anti-Hijab movement and people.
    Any way, i think this aircraft left Shiraz after two month of its historic landing.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *