THE NEW CHAIRMAN of Middle East Airlines (MEA), Khaled Salaam, has lost no time in outlining the steps necessary to pull the airline out of its financial difficulties and modernise an aging 14-strong fleet.

Salaam, as well as signaling his intention of initiating a cost-cutting programme to make the airline more efficient, says that he will attempt to secure loans, mainly to finance a fleet re-equipment programme, a project which frustrated his predecessor, Abdel-Hamid Fakhoury, throughout his three-year tenure.

The airline was granted a $6 million loan in 1993 and a further $9 million the following year, by Intra Investment, a multi-national holding company, which has a 62.5% share of MEA, but these loans were conditional on their not being used for aircraft purchase and expansion and effectively prevented the implementation of a five-year development plan.

The Lebanese Government intervened in December 1994, with a promise to advance the airline around $100 million specifically for the acquisition of newer aircraft, but this plan foundered on internecine squabbles about political appointments to the new management team.

MEA operates three Boeing 747-200Bs (which are 20 years old), seven Boeing 707-320Cs (aged between 26 and 28 years) and four, newer, Airbus A310-200/300s. The airline celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Source: Flight International