Mahan Air, Iran's second-largest airline, has begun offering direct flights to Venezuela, with the first flight taking off from Tehran on Monday with a foreign ministry delegation on board, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) has reported.
The private airline reportedly has nothing to fear in terms of retaliatory US sanctions, since it was already blacklisted by Washington in 2011 amid US claims that it provided logistical support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an Iranian military unit which the US has recently mulled designating as a foreign 'terrorist organisation'.
Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh confirmed that the new route was established on early Monday morning, with the first non-stop Tehran-Caracas flight expected to take about 16 hours. It's not clear at this point how many times a week the back and forth flights will occur.
The first flight is said to be carrying Mohsen Baharvand, the director of the Iranian Foreign Ministry's department for the Americas, who is expected to touch down in Caracas later Monday to discuss the current state of affairs in the Latin American nation with his Venezuelan counterparts.
Mahan Air was established in 1992, becoming Iran's first private airline. The airline has over three dozen modern aircraft, including planes made by Airbus, British Aerospace, and a lone Boeing 747-300, and is one of the country's largest airlines.
Tehran was one of about 50 countries which denounced US meddling in Venezuela at the UN in February, and has voiced its support for the country's democratically elected government.