Middle East Airlines

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Middle East Airlines – Air Liban
طيران الشرق الأوسط ـ الخطوط الجوية اللبنانية
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded May 31, 1945; 70 years ago (1945-05-31)
Commenced operations January 1, 1946; 70 years ago (1946-01-01)
AOC # MEA-A001
Hubs Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport
Frequent-flyer program Cedar Miles
Airport lounge Cedar Lounge
Alliance SkyTeam[1]
  • Middle East Airlines Ground Handling (MEAG)
  • Middle East Airports Services (MEAS)
  • Mideast Aircraft Services Company (MASCO)
  • Lebanese Beirut Airport Catering Company (LBACC)
Fleet size 18
Destinations 37[2]
Company slogan From Lebanon to the World
Parent company Banque du Liban
Headquarters Beirut, Lebanon
Key people Mohammed El-Hout (Chairman & Director General)
Net income Increase US$800,000,000 (2015) [3]
Website www.mea.com.lb
MEA Convair 990A at London Heathrow Airport in 1970
An MEA Boeing 747 in 1984
Middle East Airlines office in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, Paris

Middle East Airlines – Air Liban S.A.L. (Arabic: طيران الشرق الأوسط ـ الخطوط الجوية اللبنانيةtayyarān al-Sharq al-Awsat - al-Khutut al-Jawwiyyah al-Libnāniyyah), more commonly known as Middle East Airlines (MEA) (Arabic: طيران الشرق الأوسطtayyarān al-Sharq al-Awsat), is the national flag-carrier airline of Lebanon, with its head office in Beirut,[4] near Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport.[5] It operates scheduled international flights to Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa from its base at Rafic Hariri International Airport.[6]

Middle East Airlines (MEA) is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The airline expressed its interest in becoming a SkyTeam associate member in early 2006 at a press conference in New York.[7] On 28 February 2011, MEA officially signed the partnership agreement with SkyTeam in an official ceremony in Beirut. On 28 June 2012, MEA officially joined SkyTeam to become its 17th member, as well as its second member airline in the Middle East.[1]


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,[8] 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 to the realities of war in Lebanon between 1975 and 1991 and despite multiple closures of the base at Beirut International Airport, was able to continue operating against all odds. Airbus A310-300s were acquired in 1993 and 1994, followed by an A321-200 and the A330-200 (which replaced the A310s). From 1998 to 2002, MEA implemented its largest restructuring program ever which helped to turn it around from a loss-making airline to a profitable one by 2003.

On June 28, 2012, Middle East Airlines joined the SkyTeam alliance to become its 17th member and the second in the Middle East following Saudia.

The airline has introduced self check-in kiosks at Beirut's 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.

A majority of the airline is owned by the central bank of Lebanon, Banque du Liban, (99.50%) and employs around 5,000 staff group-wide (as of February 2009). In November 2011, the chairman unlawfully terminated the employment of a pilot who had cancer. This has forced the pilot union to go on strike as of November 29, 2011.[9]

MEA offers only two classes of travel on all of its flights: Business Class (which is called Cedar Class) and Economy Class. Neither First Class nor Premium Economy Class are offered.


Middle East Airlines flies to [2] the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.[10] Copenhagen, Lourdes, Medina, Mykonos, Nice, Sarajevo, and Sharm el-Sheikh are the destinations that are served seasonally.[10] MEA also operates charter flights to leisure destinations in various countries, serving cities such as Antalya, Bodrum, Dalaman, and Rhodes.

Airbus A321-200 in current livery lands at London Heathrow Airport in 2010

Codeshare agreements[edit]

MEA has codeshare agreements with the following airlines as of September 2014:[11]

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


A Middle East Airlines Airbus A330-200 on short final to London Heathrow Airport in 2009
A Middle East Airlines Airbus A320-200 on short final to Frankfurt Airport in 2014

As of January 2016, the MEA fleet consists of the following aircraft:[12][13]

Middle East Airlines fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Options Passengers Notes
J Y Total
Airbus A320-200
7 aircraft powered by IAE V2500 engines, 4 aircraft powered by CFM-56 engines, 1 aircraft painted in Skyteam livery along with winglets [15]
Airbus A320neo
150 (2-class)
TBD 2018
Airbus A321-200
First airline in the Middle East to operate the A321
Airbus A321neo
185 (2-class)
TBD 2018
Airbus A330-200
Embraer Legacy 500
Total 18 12 10

Fleet development[edit]

MEA A320 and A330 In-Flight Entertainment System
  • During an interview in March 2007 with MEA Chairman Mr. Mohamad El-Hout, he indicated that the airline had 3 Airbus A330s and 4 Airbus A319s (later converted to A320s) on order and that the airline will start taking delivery of the first aircraft in May 2007, another in 2009, and the last three in 2010.[citation needed]
  • On June 27, 2007, MEA announced it will be taking a $60,000,000 loan from the Lebanese bank Fransabank to purchase 2 Airbus A320s. The loan would be repaid over a 10-year period.
  • In early October 2007, MEA announced a modified livery for its fleet as well as an increase of its A320 order from 4 to 6 aircraft.
  • In November 2009, MEA placed an order for an Airbus A319 with delivery expected late 2010 to early 2011, but this was later converted to another A320 order.
  • MEA received the 5000th Airbus A320 (registration OD-MRL) built on January 20, 2012.[16]
  • In 2012, MEA confirmed an order for 5 Airbus A320neo and 5 Airbus A321neo along with 8 options. The delivery of the 10 aircraft is expected in 2018. This order's cost is $1.05 billion.
  • MEA received its eleventh A320-200 on 2 October 2013. Also the first in a "Skyteam" livery and equipped with sharklets.
  • In May 2015, MEA confirmed an order for an Embraer Legacy 500 along with an option for another jet of the same model.
  • In 2015, MEA painted an A321 in the retro livery to celebrate MEA's 70th anniversary

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 also include guaranteed seat reservation in economy as well as other extra benefits.[17]

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.[18]

Only MEA and MEA codeshare flights earn qualifying miles which count towards advancing from Basic to Prestige and from Prestige to Elite. Cedar Class tickets earn double the miles traveled and full-fare Economy Class tickets earn a 25% bonus on miles traveled.

In conjunction with Bank Audi, MEA offers two Cedar Miles MasterCard credit cards: Classic and Platinum.

Additionally, BankMed offers the MedMiles program in collaboration with MEA. The VISA credit cards come in 5 forms: Classic, Gold, Platinum, Signature, and Infinite.

For corporate customers, MEA offers a Cedar Miles Visa Corporate credit card, also in conjunction with Bank Audi.[18]


MEA owns the following subsidiaries, which are operated independently:

  • Middle East Airlines Ground Handling (MEAG)
Founded in 1999, MEAG is the main ground handling agent at Beirut's Rafic Hariri 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's Rafic Hariri International Airport conducting many services ranging from cleaning the terminal 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's Rafic Hariri International Airport. MASCO is a part 145 EASA-approved MRO with full airframe check capabilities on the Airbus A300, A310, A320, and A330 family of aircraft. In addition, MASCO is certified to performing painting for all types of aircraft.
  • In addition to the above three wholly owned subsidiaries, MEA owns 77.5% of the Lebanese Beirut Airport Catering Company (LBACC) which is the only catering provider at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport with capacity of 20,000 meals/day

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, Air Liban C-47A LR-AAN was shot at by an Israeli Spitfire fighter; the C-47 landed safely at Beirut Airport, but three passengers (of 28 on board) were killed in the attack.[19]
  • 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.[20]
  • On 1 February 1963, Flight 263, operated by Vickers Viscount 754D 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 three on board the C-47 and a further 87 people on the ground.[21]
  • 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.[22]
  • 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.[23]
  • 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 a Boeing aircraft in Athens.[24]
  • On 1 January 1976, Flight 438, operated by Boeing 720B OD-AFT broke up in mid-air after a bomb was allegedly placed in the forward cargo compartment exploded. All 81 people on board were killed. The aircraft crashed near Al Qaysumah, Saudi Arabia.[25]
  • 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 720's 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.
  • On 21 August 1985, two Middle East Airlines Boeing 720's (OD-AFL and OD-AGQ) were destroyed by shelling at Beirut International Airport.
  • On 8 January 1987, Boeing 707-323C OD-AHB was destroyed by shelling after landing at Beirut International Airport.[26]
  • On 14 September 2014, an MEA aircraft was forced to conduct an emergency landing in Rome because of a talk about an onboard explosive device which quickly spread. The A320-200 was en route from Geneva to Beirut when two Italian warplanes rushed to meet the airliner and force it to land. The aircraft landed safely.[27]

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. ^ a b Middle East Airlines Joins SkyTeam
  2. ^ a b Route Map. MEA. Retrieved on 2014-04-02.
  3. ^ "Lebanon’s MEA ranks 18th carrier in world in terms of net profits". 
  4. ^ "Contact Info." 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: "Boulevard de l'Aéroport - Code 0111 Beyrouth , Liban."
  5. ^ "إتصل بنا." Middle East Airlines. Retrieved on 2 February 2011. "طريق مطار رفيق الحريري الدولي ـ بيروت، لبنان"
  6. ^ "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-04-10. p. 50. 
  7. ^ "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. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "mea - 1969 - 0102 - Flight Archive". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Middle East Airlines AirLiban, MEA. Zawya.com (2010-04-30). Retrieved on 2010-12-14.
  10. ^ a b "Middle East Airlines Route Map". Middle East Airlines. Archived from the original on 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  11. ^ "Codeshare 201108.pdf". Google Docs. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Flight International 2008 World Airliner Census. Retrieved 21 January 2009.
  13. ^ "MEA - Middle East Airlines Fleet Details and History". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  14. ^ https://www.planespotters.net/airframe/Airbus/A320/6978/OD-MEA-Middle-East-Airlines
  15. ^ https://www.planespotters.net/airline/MEA-Middle-East-Airlines
  16. ^ "Press release - Airbus, a leading aircraft manufacturer". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  17. ^ Earning Frequent Flyer Miles
  18. ^ a b Frequent Flyer Partners
  19. ^ Accident description for LR-AAN at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2015-1-7.
  20. ^ "OD-ABU Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  21. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 October 2009. 
  22. ^ "Middle East Airlines SE 210 Caravelle III OD-AEM accident at sea 10 NM SSE of Dhahran Airport, Saudi Arabia on 17 April 1964." (Archive) Committee of Accident Investigation convened by the Superintendent Director General of Civil Aviation, Saudi Arabia. July 1964. Prepared by Harro Ranter, Aviation Safety Network. Source: Aircraft Accident Digest No.16 (ICAO Circular 82-AN/69) page 151-161.
  23. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 October 2009. 
  24. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 7 October 2009. 
  25. ^ "Criminal occurrence description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 October 2009. 
  26. ^ "Criminal Occurrence description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 26 January 2010. 
  27. ^ "MEA Flight Returns to Beirut after 'Precautionary' Landing in Rome". Retrieved 2015-08-23. 

External links[edit]