Middle East Airlines (MEA) -the national flag carrier of Lebanon, seeks to conduct existing and upcoming flights to Africa using its forthcoming Airbus A321-200NX (XLRs). The Managing Director of the airline, Mohamed Al Hout, said that the airline is poised to operate A321XLRs on existing routes as well as new routes connecting Lebanon and Africa.
The network expansion in the African market can strengthen the role of Beirut Airport as a hub to concentrate traffic flow. At present, a minimal number, around 5%, of air travelers travel via Lebanon. Middle East Airlines is hopeful regarding the rise of this share with an increase of new feeder flights from African markets that are underserved. Notwithstanding the possibility, the carrier focuses on retaining its position as a predominant point-to-point airline, targeting solely on the origin and destination.
Airbus’ new long-range single-aisle jet A321LR will serve ‘long, thin’ routes. Al Hout further said that they have many thin routes that are unprofitable to sustain widebody aircraft, especially Africa. The new destinations to serve in Africa include Kinshasa N’Djili, Monrovia Roberts, Brazzaville, Freetown, Conakry Luanda, and Libreville. So, the flag carrier is looking forward to catering to new markets as well as increasing flight frequencies on routes like Lagos, Abidjan, Accra it currently serves to make their daily flights.
From Lebanon to Africa or the USA
Lebanon consists of one of the largest diaspora populations living in the US and Africa. Lebanese have scattered globally residing overseas, resulting in less number of people in the home country. Given the current situation induced by the pandemic, the large, fast-growing demand from Lebanese living in the US to visit their near and dear ones post-pandemic has surged, which will help the airline to capture such demand. Similarly, political riots, increasing unemployment, and uncertainty have increased the trend of Lebanese leaving their home country to move abroad. MEA’s move to pursue network expansion into Africa is a strategic step for the carrier, given the large population of Lebanese in Africa and migration trends.