Middle East Airlines has calculated that it suffered losses of $45 million as a result of the conflict with Israel, 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 during the period between 13 July, when Israeli bombing forced the airport’s closure, and 7 September when the blockade was lifted.
It also claims that it has been hit by $16 million in direct losses, and the carrier has requested 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 the increased number of flight hours.
But MEA chairman Mohammad El-Hout insists that the company, which has restructured in recent years to become a profitable organisation, will be able to withstand the financial impact.
“The most important thing is the future,” he says. “If the security and political situation in the country remains stable then we will be able to recover the losses.”
MEA says the airline’s entire fleet has been repatriated to Beirut and that operations are “close to normal”. Full services, says a spokesman for the carrier, will be restored on 11 September.
Jackie Thompson, features editor of Airline Business reports on how carriers are slowly returning to Beirut after the recent conflict with Israel