Middle East Airlines celebrates its 70th anniversary

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© Archives MEA

This successful company of the national economy, with an ultra modern fleet continues to offer services that reflect the culture and Lebanese hospitality.

The MEA in dates:

1945-1956: The MEA was founded by Saeb Salam, former Prime minister, whose family held 78% of the shares of the company.

1956-1998: Several presidents have succeeded at the head of the MEA over the years and each has played a special role. Najib Alamuddin hired young engineers and experts in economics that led the company to join the biggest international companies. Assaad Nasr, aware of the importance of quality of service, raised the MEA to the level of the biggest markets in growth. Salim Salam, during the war, made decisions that allowed the MEA to overcome the difficulties of the moment. Abdel Hamid Fakhoury had the subtle idea to rent an Airbus A310 plane, and train the Cedar Team. Khaled Salam has launched several reform plans and new development strategies.

  1. Mohamad El-Hout, Current CEO of Middle East Airlines, worked at the Central Bank when Governor Riad Salamé entrusted him the MEA files to inject new blood into the company to save it from imminent bankruptcy. El-Hout has proven his competence in managing the company. He was determined to give the MEA a pioneering role in the region. He took important decisions so that the MEA was quickly transformed from a losing company into a lucrative business. Under his tenure, the company was able to overcome the Israeli attacks and their impact; the September 11 attacks in New York and their economic consequences on the planet; the occupation of Iraq; the assassination of the Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; Israeli aggression in 2006; the global financial crisis of 2008 and the constant security threats. All this had destabilized Lebanon and affected its tourism. Today MEA showed a net increase of income that allowed him to buy a new ultra modern fleet. From the speeches of its CEO we quote: «The MEA is not an ordinary commercial line. Since its foundation it was intended to be an extension of our noble civilization. It carries the character of Lebanon where it lands. The MEA is constantly present in all forums, exhibitions and conferences, is the fabulous ambassador of Lebanon.»

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Mohamad El Hout, CEO of Middle East Airlines. © Archives MEA

May 31, 1945, date of registration of the Lebanese civil aviation company, Air Lebanon – Middle East Airlines with a capital of 1 million Lebanese pounds, signed by Saeb Salam CEO Fawzi el Hoss, technical director of the MEA. The Salam family was holding 78% of the shares of the company. On November 30th, 1945 MEA took off for the first time towards Nicosia with on board, passengers and crew. The number of employees was 166 at the end of 1945.

  1. The company inaugurated its first flights in Aleppo and Cyprus, Damascus, Haifa, Amman and Cairo. Later, its flights took the directions of Baghdad, Ankara, Istanbul, Kuwait, Tehran, Jeddah, Bahrain and Marseille. In just one year, the MEA has recorded a profit of 218,205 LL
  1. Intra Bank buys most of the actions of the MEA while individuals acquire the rest.
  1. The MEA recorded a net profit of 3 million Lebanese pounds. It ranks 16th among the 93 international airlines, members of IATA.
  1. The Lebanese government seized all the assets of the Bank Intra after its bankruptcy, and takes control of the MEA.
  1. Israeli commandos blow up 13 planes at Beirut International Airport.
  1. The MEA acquires Lebanese International Airways, LIA, following the destruction of part of its fleet.
  1. The Board of Directors decided to increase the capital of the MEA from 25 million Lebanese pounds to 37.5 million. It also encouraged employees to acquire shares in the company. An unprecedented decision in the region.
  1. The Israeli Special Forces landed at Beirut International Airport and ordered its closure. MEA managed to conduct its operations from Nicosia.
  1. The capital of the MEA climbs to 50 million Lebanese pounds then 75 millions, and 500 thousand shares.
  1. Beginning of the war. In September the employees were no longer able to reach the airport. More than 100 employees were kidnapped then liberated after the intervention of the MEA known for its neutrality. MEA’s damage has reached 14 million Lebanese pounds in just this year. The airport was forced to close for five months, often being shot at. MEA moved to Orly airport in France. Air France acquires 28% of the shares. The French government has strongly supported the Lebanese government during this period and allowed the MEA to use its hangars at Orly. Other Arab countries have also helped MEA during difficult times.
  1. The MEA reduces its costs by closing 24 offices in Europe, Africa and the United States to reduce employees.
  1. The maintenance team leaves Orly and returns to Beirut. MEA buys three Boeing 747.
  1. An Israeli raid destroyed much of the fleet at the airport. MEA must transfer offices to Larnaca airport until the evacuation of Israeli soldiers.
  1. Air Transport World awards a prize to the MEA in appreciation of its services. The airport is closed again for 154 days following the events.
  1. With the return to normal, MEA resumes flights to all previous destinations.
  1. New destinations to the United States, the Americas and Australia.
  1. The Central Bank acquires 99.23% shares of the MEA.
  1. MEA and Air France signed an agreement allowing the MEA to add 70 new routes and transfer its operations at Charles De Gaulle Airport.
  1. Proceeds from the MEA reach 50 millions in one year.
  1. Despite the troubles caused by the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the impact on air traffic, MEA reports profits of $ 46 million.
  1. The first A330 aircraft with a new logo, cedar reflecting the colors of the Lebanese flag, landed in Beirut.
  1. The MEA signed an agreement with the SkyTeam Alliance. The number of passengers reached 2 millions.
  1. The MEA launches the Air Cargo Center project to be built according to European safety standards. It signed the agreement to buy 10 A320 and A321 aircrafts equipped with the latest technologies.
  1. Signature of an agreement with the Canadian company CAE to build an academy for aviation training.
  1. The Governor of the Central Bank, Riad Salamé announces the issuance of a medal on the occasion of 70 years of MEA.