Middle East Airlines (MEA), a traditional carrier operating in the Middle East region, has been around for a while. The carrier has faced many challenges since its inception on 31 May 1945. Despite all the difficulties, the airline was able to make 18 years of profit before COVID. At the IATA AGM, I was able to meet with Mohamad Elhout, Chairman and Director General of MEA. He shared the most recent updates from MEA with us.
MEA is the Airbus A321XLR's launch customer. When the aircraft enters service in 2024, SkyTeam alliance members will be able to offer more routes to Africa.
There are many routes that are too narrow to be commercially viable for widebody aircraft.
I asked the chairman if there were any plans to discuss the routes to Africa. Elhout was extremely helpful on the subject. New destinations such as Kinshasa or Monrovia or Brazzaville, Freetown and Conakry, Luanda, Luanda, Luanda, Brazzaville, Freetown and Freetown are all being discussed. He said that we are seeking new markets and increasing frequency on the existing routes to Lagos, Abidjan, Accra for daily services.
MEA will receive three A321XLRs by 2024, and one by 2025.
Elhout stated that MEA was unable to fly these destinations due to the small markets and insufficient aircraft available to reach them. Elhout stated that most of our Africa business is purely point-to-point. But, if we are able to do daily flights on certain routes, we can attract more passengers via our sixth freedom rights via Hub Beirut.
MEA is described by Elhout as a point to point carrier. The Chairman stated that our product is more luxurious because of this. Only 160 seats are available on the Airbus A321neo. It will be lower than 150 seats on the A321XLR.
Future Fleet Plan
Elhout stated that the future A321neo fleet of airlines will consist of four A321XLRs and 11 A321neos. Unfortunately, the planned order for four Airbus A330neos was delayed to 2026. Our four A330-200s currently operate at 50% of their pre-COVID time.
The economic situation in Lebanon will determine whether MEA's A320 fleet is kept. The CEO stated that if the economic situation improves, then multiple A320s may be kept.
Our goal was to have 20 A321neo/XLRs as well as the A330neos in our fleet. Chairman MEA and DG Mohamad Elhout
These plans are currently being reviewed. One A330-200 was sold and we plan to sell the other one. We also intend to sell five A320s. We expect to have between 15-20 aircraft in our future fleet.
Concerning MEAs network plans to operate again in North and South America are no longer on the agenda. Elhout stated that we can reach 30 points in the US through our codeshare agreements.
The Chairman stated that Hub Beirut benefits from Skyteam alliance membership. He said that we also have code-sharing agreements with other alliance members, such as Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, and many others.
MEA was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic like many airlines around the world. Elhout stated that we didn't receive any government support because of its financial problems.
Before the pandemic, MEA had transported 3.3 million passengers. The airline only served 1 million passengers in 2020. We will make it through this difficult period. Elhout stated that MEA and Lebanon have experienced so many crises. We made profits for 18 years, even before the COVID impact.