Whatever price Middle East Airlines negotiated for those newly-ordered Airbus A320neos, it probably didn’t involve part-payment in fruit.
Which wasn’t the case in 1966 when BAC was desperately trying to flog a batch of Super VC10s to MEA in a bid to attract sales from other overseas customers – even Czechoslovakia.
“If…we lose the Middle East Airlines contract, it seems very likely that we shall have to abandon any hope of selling the Super VC10 in world markets,” was the UK minister of aviation’s pessimistic prognosis, contained in a memorandum buried in the National Archives.
MEA insisted on a £2.67 million price-tag for each jet, the lowest figure to which BAC would agree, plus generous payment terms including a 10-year interest-free loan.
Not content with paying peanuts for the VC10s it also demanded arrangements for the sale of Lebanese apples in the UK amounting to “at least 20% of the value of the aircraft”.
While the government wouldn’t agree to a special apple quota, the document reveals that BAC found an importer which would use part of the global quota to bring in Lebanese apples.
“We may well have protests from traditional suppliers and attempts to raise the global quota,” the memorandum warns. “We should try to avoid doing this, because it would create difficulties with our home apple growers, but we might in the end be forced to.”