Middle East Airlines

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Middle East Airlines – Air Liban
طيران الشرق الأوسط ـ الخطوط الجوية اللبنانية لبنان للطيران
Middle East Airlines (logo).svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded31 May 1945; 75 years ago (1945-05-31)
Commenced operations1 January 1946; 75 years ago (1946-01-01)
HubsBeirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport
Frequent-flyer programCedar Miles
  • Cedar Executive
  • Lebanese Beirut Airport Catering Company (LBACC) (77.5%)
  • Middle East Airlines Ground Handling (MEAG)
  • Middle East Airports Services (MEAS)
  • Mideast Aircraft Services Company (MASCO)
Fleet size24
Parent companyBank of Lebanon
HeadquartersBeirut, Lebanon
Key peopleMohammad El Hout (chairman & director general)
ProfitIncrease US$84,000,000 (2018)[3]
Employees2,929 (MEA, MEAG, MASCO) (2016)[4]

Middle East Airlines – Air Liban S.A.L. (Arabic: طيران الشرق الأوسط ـ الخطوط الجوية اللبنانيةṬayyarān al-Sharq al-Awsaṭ – al-Khuṭūṭ al-jawiyyah al-lubnāniyyah), more commonly known as Middle East Airlines (MEA) (Arabic: طيران الشرق الأوسطṬayyarān al-Sharq al-Awsaṭ), is the national flag-carrier airline of Lebanon, with its head office in Beirut,[5] near Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport.[6] It operates scheduled international flights to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa from its base at Rafic Hariri International Airport.[7]

Middle East Airlines (MEA) is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance. MEA expressed its interest in becoming a SkyTeam associate member in early 2006 at a press conference in New York.[8] On 28 February 2011, the airline signed the partnership agreement with SkyTeam at a ceremony in Beirut, and officially joined the alliance on 28 June 2012, becoming its 17th member and the second member airline in the Middle East.


A Middle East Airlines Convair 990A at London Heathrow Airport in 1970
A Middle East Airlines Boeing 747-200 in 1984

Middle East Airlines was founded on 31 May 1945 by Saeb Salam and Fawzi EL-Hoss with operational and technical support from BOAC. Operations started on 1 January 1946 using three de Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapides on flights between Beirut and Nicosia, followed by flights to Iraq, Egypt, and Syria. Two Douglas DC-3s were acquired in mid-1946. Pan American World Airways acquired a stake and management contract in September 1949.

Pan Am was replaced when BOAC acquired 49% of MEA's shares in 1955. A Vickers Viscount was introduced in October 1955 while an Avro York cargo aircraft was leased in June 1957. On 15 December 1960 the first of four de Havilland Comet 4Cs arrived. After the association with BOAC ended on 16 August 1961, MEA was merged with Air Liban on 7 June 1963, which gave Air France a 30% holding (since relinquished). The full title was then Middle East Airlines – Air Liban.

In 1963 MEA also took over Lebanese International Airways. The fleet was modernised with the addition of three Sud Aviation Caravelles in April 1963, three Boeing 720Bs in January 1966, one leased Vickers VC10 in March 1967, and a number of Boeing 707-320Cs from November 1967.

The current name was adopted in November 1965 when the airline was completely merged with Air Liban. Although operations were interrupted by the 1967 Arab–Israeli war, and by the Israeli raid on Beirut Airport in 1968 - in which the airline lost three Comet 4C's, two Caravelles, a Boeing 707, the Vickers VC10, and the Vickers Viscount[9] - MEA restarted by acquiring a Convair 990A from American Airlines, which entered service on 24 June 1969.

A Boeing 747-200B entered service in June 1975 on the Beirut–London route, and later on the Beirut–Paris–New York route from April 1983 until mid-1985. MEA had to adjust its operations due to the Lebanese Civil War between 1975 and 1991 but continued services despite multiple closures of the base at Beirut International Airport. Airbus A310-300s were acquired in 1993 and 1994, followed by an A321-200 in 1997 and the A330-200 (which replaced the A310s) in 2003.

The airline has introduced self-check-in kiosks at Beirut International Airport as of July 2010. The airline is also planning on launching the Arabesk Airline Alliance with six other Arab carriers. Their future plans include floating about 25% of their shares on the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) as part of a long-term plan to fully privatize the airline.

In November 2011, MEA's pilots union staged a 48-hour strike after a captain undergoing cancer treatment was dismissed shortly after going on sick leave.[10]

On 28 June 2012, Middle East Airlines joined the SkyTeam alliance to become its 17th member and the second in the Middle East following Saudia. 5,000 staff are employed across the airline group. The central bank of Lebanon, Banque du Liban, owns a majority share of 99.50%.


Middle East Airlines flies to 32 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Medina and Nice are destinations that are served seasonally.

Codeshare agreements[edit]

MEA has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[11]

MEA also participates in SNCF's (French National Railways) tgvair program.[14]


Current fleet[edit]

The 5000th Airbus A320 family aircraft built, delivered to Middle East Airlines,[15] taxiing in Frankfurt, Germany.
A Middle East Airlines Airbus A330-200 Landing in London Heathrow Airport in 2009.

MEA (excluding Cedar Executive) operates an all-Airbus fleet. As of September 2020, it consists of the following aircraft:

A Middle East Airlines Airbus A320-200 wearing the SkyTeam livery in Geneva, Switzerland.
Middle East Airlines' fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
C E Total
Airbus A320-200 10 24 102 126 One in SkyTeam livery.
One in retro 75th anniversary livery.
Airbus A321neo 7 3 28 132 160 Deliveries begin from July 2020 until 2021.[16][17]
Airbus A321XLR 4
Launch customer.
Deliveries to begin in 2023.[18]
Airbus A330-200 5 44 200 244
Airbus A330-900 4
To be delivered in 2022.[16]
Cedar Executive Fleet
Embraer Legacy 500 2 12 12
Total 24 12

Historic fleet[edit]

Fleet development[edit]

Middle East Airlines firmed up its order for ten Airbus A320neo family aircraft (five A320neo and five A321neo) in January 2013.[19] The order for the A320neo was later converted to five more A321neo aircraft. The first A321neo was delivered on 10 July 2020;[20] the third, delivered 9 October 2020, was the 10,000th A320 family aircraft produced.[21]

On 12 December 2018, the then-Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, signed an order with engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce Holdings for four Airbus A330-900s.[22] During the 2019 Paris Air Show, the airline became the launch customer for the A321XLR: four XLRs were ordered, intended for use on routes to Africa and Asia.[23]

Cedar Executive, MEA's business jet subsidiary, took delivery of its first Embraer Legacy 500 on 5 January 2016.

Frequent-flyer program[edit]

In 2011, Middle East Airlines changed its frequent-flyer program to a 4-tier program- Blue Cedar, Silver Cedar, Golden Cedar, and President's Club, respectively- in preparation for joining the SkyTeam airline alliance. Silver Cedar, Golden Cedar, and President's Club members gain numerous benefits such as access to the Cedar Lounge at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, as well as outstation lounges at all MEA destinations. Golden Cedar and President's Club offer additional benefits, including guaranteed economy seat reservation.[24]

Cedar Miles can be earned and redeemed on all MEA flights and on all flights operated by Air France, KLM, and Qatar Airways, as well as codeshare partners on certain routes. Cedar Miles can also be earned during stays at all Rotana Hotels and all Hertz car rentals worldwide.[25]


MEA owns the following subsidiaries, which are operated independently

  • Cedar Executive
Founded in January 2016, Cedar Executive is a private jet service based at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport which operates business flights across Europe and the Middle East, using two Embraer Legacy 500s. Clients have access to a private lounge and chauffeur service to the flight.
  • Middle East Airlines Ground Handling (MEAG)
Founded in 1999, MEAG is the main ground handling agent at Beirut International Airport, handling nearly 80% of all traffic. MEAG also operates a fixed-base operator called Cedar Jet Center at the General Aviation Terminal.
  • Middle East Airports Services (MEAS)
Founded in 1998, MEAS is responsible for the operation and maintenance of Beirut International Airport. Services range from cleaning of the terminals to de-rubberising the runways.
  • Mideast Aircraft Services Company (MASCO)
Founded in 1955, MASCO is the only fully fledged aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider at Beirut International Airport. MASCO is a part 145 EASA-approved MRO with full airframe check capabilities on the Airbus A300, A310, A320, and A330 family aircraft. MASCO is also certified to carry out aircraft painting.

In addition, MEA owns 77.5% of the Lebanese Beirut Airport Catering Company (LBACC), the only catering provider at Beirut International Airport.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

An MEA aircraft was destroyed during a confrontation between the Israelis and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1982
  • On 24 July 1950, an Air Liban Douglas DC-3, registration LR-AAN was shot at by an Israeli Spitfire; the DC-3 landed safely at Beirut Airport, but 3 passengers (of 28 on board) were killed in the attack.[26]
  • On 6 January 1952, Air Liban SNCASE Languedoc OD-ABU crashed on take-off from Beirut Airport, and was consequently destroyed by fire. All nine passengers and crew on board survived. The aircraft was operating a scheduled international passenger flight from Beirut to Kuwait Airport, Kuwait.[27]
  • On 29 September 1958, Middle East Airlines Avro York OD-ADB disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea with five on board.[28]
  • On 1 February 1963, Flight 265, a Vickers Viscount 754D registered OD-ADE, was involved in a mid-air collision with Turkish Air Force C-47 CBK28. Both aircraft crashed in Ankara, killing all 14 on board the Viscount, all 3 on board the C-47 and a further 87 people on the ground.[29]
  • On 17 April 1964, Flight 444, operated by Sud Caravelle III OD-AEM struck the sea near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing all 49 on board; the cause of the accident was not determined.[30]
  • On 21 April 1964, Middle East Airlines Vickers Viscount 754D OD-ACX was damaged beyond economic repair at El Arish, Egypt after the taxiway it was taxiing on collapsed.[31]
  • On 28 December 1968, seven [a] MEA aircraft were destroyed in a raid by Israeli commandos at Beirut International Airport. This attack was in retaliation for a terrorist attack on an El Al Boeing aircraft in Athens which killed an Israeli mechanic.[32]
  • On 1 January 1976, Flight 438, operated by Boeing 720B OD-AFT broke up in mid-air after the explosion of a bomb allegedly placed in the forward cargo compartment. All 81 people on board were killed, some of whom were fleeing the ongoing Lebanese Civil War.[33] The aircraft crashed near Al Qaysumah, Saudi Arabia.[34]
  • On 12 June 1982, in response to the attempted assassination by the Abu Nidal Group of the Israeli ambassador to Britain, the Israeli army attacked the airport in Beirut, destroying Middle East Airlines Boeing 720-023B OD-AFP. Four days later, four more aircraft (three 720s and one 707) were destroyed in a second attack. On 1 August 1982, a 14-hour non-stop bombing raid on Beirut destroyed Boeing 720-047B OD-AGG.[citation needed]
  • On 21 August 1985, two MEA Boeing 720's (OD-AFL and OD-AGQ) were destroyed by shelling at Beirut International Airport.[35][36]
  • On 8 January 1987, Boeing 707-323C OD-AHB was destroyed by shelling after landing at Beirut International Airport.[37]
  • On 16 November 2001 an Airbus A321-200, with the registration F-OHMP, was operating as Flight 304 from Beirut International Airport to Cairo International Airport when it sustained damage during a tail strike accident upon landing at Cairo, This airframe would be destroyed by a bomb nearly 14 years later midflight as Metrojet Flight 9268.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vickers Viscount OD-ACT; Sud Caravelles OD-AEE and OD-AEF; de Havilland Comets OD-ADQ, OD-ADR and OD-ADS; Boeing 707 OD-AFC; and a Ghana Airways Vickers VC10 (9G-ABP) operating for MEA


  1. ^ Middle East Airlines Joins SkyTeam Archived 2012-06-30 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Middle East Airlines Map". me.fltmaps.com.
  3. ^ Kaminski-Morrow, David (25 October 2018). "MEA signals commitment to take A330neo". Flightglobal.com.
  4. ^ "MEA Board of Directors report for 2016". Middle East Airlines. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  5. ^ "Contact Info Archived 2010-10-11 at the Wayback Machine." Middle East Airlines. Retrieved on 20 December 2010. "MEA Head Office P.O.BOX: 11-206 Airport Road, Beirut, Lebanon 1107–2801." Address in French Archived 2010-10-14 at the Wayback Machine: "Boulevard de l'Aéroport – Code 0111 Beyrouth, Liban."
  6. ^ "إتصل بنا Archived 2011-01-03 at the Wayback Machine." Middle East Airlines. Retrieved on 2 February 2011. "طريق مطار رفيق الحريري الدولي ـ بيروت، لبنان"
  7. ^ "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-04-10. p. 50.
  8. ^ "SkyTeam Welcomes Middle East Airlines, Air Liban (MEA) Interest in SkyTeam Associate Program Governing Board supports carrier's application for Associate Airline status" (Press release). SkyTeam. 2006-01-16. Archived from the original on 23 January 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  9. ^ "mea – 1969 – 0102 – Flight Archive". Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  10. ^ "MEA Grounded over Pilot Strike, Releases Revised Tuesday Schedule". Naharnet. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  11. ^ "Profile on Middle East Airlines". CAPA. Centre for Aviation. Archived from the original on 2016-10-31. Retrieved 2016-10-31.
  12. ^ Ltd. 2018, UBM (UK). "Air Europa / MEA expands codeshare routes from June 2018". Routesonline.
  13. ^ "MEA – Inauguration of Code Share Flights between KUWAIT and BEIRUT". www.mea.com.lb.
  14. ^ "SNCF, the first rail partner of MEA" (Press release). MEA. 2 June 2006. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Airbus Delivers 5000th A320". Australian Aviation. 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  16. ^ a b "MEA advances Airbus deliveries schedule".
  17. ^ "Boc Aviation Delivers First Two of Five New Airbus A321neo to Middle East Airlines". BOC Aviation. 1 December 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  18. ^ Libnanews, Newsdesk (2019-06-15). "La MEA, compagnie de lancement de l'A321XLR". Libnanews, Le Média Citoyen du Liban (in French). Retrieved 2019-06-15.
  19. ^ "Middle East Airlines firms up order for ten A320neo Family aircraft". Airbus. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  20. ^ "Middle East Airlines (MEA) receives its first Airbus A321neo". Airbus. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Airbus delivers A320 Family MSN10,000 to Middle East Airlines". Airbus. 9 October 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  22. ^ Sander, Daniel (12 December 2018). "Middle East Airlines Orders Four Airbus A330-900neo". Airways Magazine. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Middle East Airlines orders four Airbus A321XLRs". Airbus. 17 June 2019. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  24. ^ Earning Frequent Flyer Miles Archived 2012-01-02 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Frequent Flyer Partners Archived 2011-12-31 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Accident description for LR-AAN at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2015-1-7.
  27. ^ "OD-ABU Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  28. ^ Accident description for OD-ADB at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2016-7-1.
  29. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  30. ^ "Middle East Airlines SE 210 Caravelle III OD-AEM accident at sea 10 NM SSE of Dhahran Airport, Saudi Arabia on 17 April 1964." () Committee of Accident Investigation convened by the Superintendent Director General of Civil Aviation, Saudi Arabia. July 1964. Prepared by Aviation Safety Network.
  31. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  32. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  33. ^ "All 82 Die as Lebanese Jet Crashes in Arabian Desert". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  34. ^ "Criminal occurrence description". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  35. ^ Accident description for OD-AFL at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2016-7-1.
  36. ^ Accident description for OD-AGQ at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2016-7-1.
  37. ^ "Criminal Occurrence description". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  38. ^ "Accident description: Middle East Airlines – MEA Airbus A321-231 F-OHMP". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 4 January 2017.

External links[edit]

Media related to Middle East Airlines at Wikimedia Commons