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Coronavirus by Air

Manisha Ganguly – BBC World TV


This investigation by BBC News Arabic analysed data from hundreds of flights, travelling from China to Iran, and from Iran to the wider Middle East to show how Iran’s largest airline – Mahan Air – continued to fly while government flight bans were in place, and contributed to the spread of Covid-19 in the Middle East. Sources within the airline told the BBC that dozens of Mahan Air’s cabin crew were showing symptoms of Covid-19 and that when staff tried to raise concerns about the airline’s management of the crisis and provision of safety equipment, they were silenced. Mahan Air is sanctioned by the US for its links to the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard.


The film was broadcast on BBC UK, World TV, Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Urdu, and Persian language services, and reached an audience of more than 1 million viewers. It was picked up by 40+ outlets around the world (14 countries roughly), including outlets in the UK (BBC news online, Telegraph, Daily Mail, etc), Iran (Iranwire), Arabic (Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, Awasat, Arab news, Janoubia, Eremnews, etc totalling 21 outlets) and other outlets (Jerusalem Post, Asia Times. Rus.Postimees, AirTurkHaber) and broadcast by CBS in America. The BBC contacted Mahan Air and other countries which allowed the airline to land despite imposing bans for flights coming from Iran. Official responses from US, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran were released following the film. The US State Department put out a statement of condemnation (, including Sec of State Pompeo (, as did the Italian ambassador (, Israeli amb (

The film received High Commendation: Best Short Doc 2020 at Association of Intl Broadcasting Awards; Longlisted: One World Media Coronavirus Reporting Award 2020, and shortlisted for the BBC Best Investigation Award 2020.

Other Work by Manisha: