Middle East Airlines

Middle East Airlines Air Liban SAL (طيران الشرق الأوسط الخطوط الجوية اللبنانية), operating as Middle East Airlines (MEA) (طيران الشرق الأوسط), is the national flag-carrier airline of Lebanon, based in Beirut. It operates scheduled international services in the Middle East, Europe and Africa and is based at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport.

Middle East Airlines (MEA) is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The airline expressed its interest in becoming a SkyTeam associate member in early 2006 at a press conference in New York and the process should be completed by mid to late 2008.


Middle East Airlines was founded on May 31, 1945 by Saeb Salam, with operational and technical support from BOAC, with three de Havilland DH.89A Rapides. Operations started on January 1, 1946 with a service between Beirut and Nicosia, followed by flights to Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Cyprus. Two Douglas DC-3s were acquired in mid-1946. Pan Am acquired a stake and management contract in September 1949.

Pan Am was replaced when BOAC acquired 49% of MEA's shares in 1955. A Vickers Viscount was introduced in October 1955 while an Avro York cargo aircraft was leased in June 1957. On December 15, 1960, the first of four de Havilland Comet 4Cs arrived. After the association with BOAC ended on August 16, 1961, MEA was merged with Air Liban on June 7, 1963 which gave Air France a 30% holding, since relinquished. The full title was then Middle East Airlines Air Liban.

In 1963 MEA also took over Lebanese International Airways. The fleet was modernised with the addition of three Sud Aviation Caravelles, in April 1963; three Boeing 720Bs, in January 1966; one leased Vickers VC10, in March 1967; and a number of Boeing 707-320Cs, from November 1967.

The current name was adopted in November 1965 when the airline was completely merged with Air Liban. Although operations were interrupted by the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, MEA restarted by acquiring a Convair CV-990A from American Airlines, which entered service on June 24 1969. A Boeing 747-200B entered service in June 1975 on the Beirut - London route. Operations were interrupted again until 1990, until the political situation stabilised. Airbus A310-300s were acquired in 1993 and 1994, followed by an A321-200 and an A330-200, (which replaced the A310s). The airline was restructured in 2001.

On September 7, 2006, Israel ended its 8-week long air blockade on Lebanon. A Middle East Airlines flight from Paris landed at Beirut International Airport at 6:06 p.m. local time. MEA resumed regularly scheduled flights on September 11, 2006.

The airline will introduce self check-in kiosks at Beirut's international airport and launch the Arabesk regional alliance with six other Arab carriers. They will be floating 10 to 20% of their shares in the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) as part of long-term plans to fully privatize the airline.

The airline is majority owned by the Banque du Liban (99.37%) and employs 2,437 staff (at March 2007).


Middle East Airlines flies to 27 destinations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Of these routes only four are served seasonally. These inlcude Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, Nice and Sharm el-Sheikh. MEA has already launched services to Doha and is planning to restart services to Khartoum, Madrid and Zurich. There is also a possibility that the airline will begin services to Algiers, Montreal and Moscow.

Although the airline does not have an extensive network compared to other international airlines, it did serve 36 destinations from Beirut in 1968. Nineteen of those routes are no longer served today.


The MEA fleet consists of the following aircraft as of May 2007:
MEA Middle East Airlines Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers
(Cedar Class/Economy)
Airbus A320-200 (6 orders) (3 options) 128 (24/104) Converted from A319
Airbus A321-200 6 149 (31/118) Short-medium haul routes
Airbus A330-200 3
(3 orders)
250 (42/208)
244 (44/200)
244 (44/200)
Short-medium haul routes
The average fleet age is 4.7 years as of March 2008.

  • During an interview in March 2007 with MEA Chairman Mr. Mohamad El-Hout, he indicated that the airline had four Airbus A330s and four Airbus A319 (later converted to A320s) on order and that the airline will start taking delivery of the first aircraft in June 2008, another 6 in 2009, and the last 3 in 2010.
  • On June 27, 2007, MEA announced it will be taking a $60,000,000 loan from the Lebanese bank Fransabank to purchase two Airbus A320s. The loan would be repaid over a 10 year period.
  • In early October 2007, MEA announced a modified livery for its fleet as well as an increase of its A320 order from four to six aircraft.
  • Aircraft used before by MEA were: 2 Airbus A300, 10 Airbus A310, 3 Airbus A320, 3 Boeing B747, Boeing 707-300 and 18 Boeing 720

Codeshare agreements

MEA Middle East Airlines has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:

MEA Middle East Airlines also has partnerships with the following companies:

  • SNCF - French National Railways


Middle East Airlines (MEA) fully owns the following subsidiaries, although they are operated independently.

  • Middle East Airports Services (MEAS)

Operates and maintains Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport from cleaning the rest rooms in the terminal to de-rubberizing the runways.

  • Middle East Airlines Ground Handling (MEAG)

The dominant ground handling company in Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport handling nearly 80% of all customers. Recently launched fixed base operator services from the new General Aviation Terminal under the name Cedar Jet Center.

  • Mideast Aircraft Services Company (MASCO)

The only fully fledged aircraft maintenance provider in Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport specializing in maintaining Airbus aircraft. The company is PART 145 certified which allows it to carry maintenance on European registered aircraft. Main clients include Cyprus Airways.

In addition to the above three wholly-owned subsidiaries, Middle East Airlines (MEA) also owns 77.5% of the Lebanese Beirut Airport Catering Company (LBACC) which is the only airline catering company at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport.


External links

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