International airlines such as Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways have been connected to the Shetab banking system. This means that Iranians can now book their flights directly from the airlines with Iranian debit cards.

For an average Iranian, booking a flight to other countries is not an easy task, especially when you want to book a flight directly from the airlines themselves. Usually, you should check the third party agencies which provide this kind of services. In the past few years, booking an international flight over the web has been made easier by companies such Alibaba, WeGo and Zoraq but that’s not the case here. For a country that its people couldn’t book their flights directly from the international airlines because of its isolated banking system f this is a big step.

Due to sanctions imposed on Iran’s economy, Iranians haven’t been able to benefit from International payment networks such as VISA or MasterCard. This led the Central Bank of Iran to implement a local interpayment system called ‘Shetab’. The payment system was introduced in 2002 and all card issuing banks are required to connect to this system. Iranian debit card owners from any local banks in Iran are able to withdraw or transfer money from any ATM or POS across in the country thanks to the Shetab system. Now that Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways are connected to the Shetab banking system, it has been made possible to book tickets directly from these airlines using the Iranian debit cards. 

Maybe this is not a suitable solution to implement international payment for Iranians but this is a good start. Only in 2016, there were one million Iranians who booked a flight from Iran to other countries, so this is a good market.

Regarding the measures that have been taken for connecting Iran’s Shetab banking system to International payment networks such as MasterCard and Visa, “We did two things simultaneously, first we let currency exchange shops to use international cards under the Central Bank’s supervision and sell these cards instead of exchanges. Besides, the Central Bank is looking for ways to develop the necessary infrastructure in providing the grounds for connecting these international cards to Iranian national banks’ switch cards,” said Valiollah Seif, the head of Central Bank of Iran to Ilna. “Some of these countries such as Japan, China and Russia are more prepared in this regard. Nevertheless, we have more problems with the cards that are connected to the US. There are limitations which we are trying to address and are trying to further resolve the issue through negotiations. In addition to these facts, we’re also trying to get in touch with some of our neighboring countries to connect our national card’s switches, in a way that regular bank cards of these financial institutions could be used in our countries.”

Overall, connecting the Iranian payment networks to the international ones can begin a new era for the Iranian businesses and startups. 

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