Airline faces fall out from Lebanon war

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Middle East Airlines (MEA) has calculated that it suffered losses of $45 million due to the closure of its Beirut Airport base and the subsequent air and sea blockade of Lebanon.

The Lebanese flag-carrier had been expecting to make a net profit of $29 million in the period between 13 July and 7 September, when the blockade was lifted. MEA says its fleet has been repatriated to Beirut and that operations are “close to normal”. Full services were restored last week.

The airline also claims it has been hit by $16 million in direct losses, and the carrier has asked for assistance from Arab airports in the form of reduced fees.

MEA transferred operations temporarily to Damascus for the duration of the conflict. Although a ceasefire came into effect on 14 August, the airline was subsequently forced to operate via the Jordanian capital Amman until the blockade was removed.

Flying from Damascus and via Jordan generated 35% higher operating costs, says the carrier, owing to increased flight hours.

But MEA chairman Mohammad El-Hout insists that the company will be able to withstand the financial impact. “If the security and political situation in the country remains stable then we will be able to recover the losses,” he says.