Lebanese airline Middle East Airlines has postponed delivery of its four Airbus A330neo on order until 2026 as it tries to recover from the twin challenges of the pandemic and the economic crisis in Lebanon.
Speaking to FlightGlobal at the Arab Air Carrier Organization’s AGM in Doha on November 11, MEA Chairman Mohamad El-Hout said the airline was operating at around 55% below levels pre-crisis in the first 10 months of the year and with lower load factors. .
“We have a lot of planes that we intend to sell,” he said, noting that the carrier has already sold an A330, intends to sell another of the same type and some of its A320s. âOur fleet will therefore be between 18 and 20 aircraft. “
Cirium fleet data shows that the MEA has an active fleet of 19 aircraft comprising nine A321neo, six A320 and four A330. It also has three A320s and one A330 in storage.
But the airline also has more planes to deliver.
âWe will receive one A321neo in 2023 and three A321XLRs in 2024 and one XLR in 2025,â he says. “It’s very important. We were a launch customer for the XLR, and we’ll be using them to make some thin African roads.”
The airline had also ordered four Airbus A330-900s, initially scheduled for delivery in 2021 and 2022.
“We postponed this until 2026, because even our A330s, we do not use them [fully], we use them at 20-25%. It is therefore not wise to take delivery of the A330neos and park them. We have therefore agreed with Airbus to postpone them until 2026. “
El-Hout says the airline had to use its own funds to weather the crisis.
“[The pandemic] is difficult, especially since it is accompanied by the economic crisis in Lebanon. This is the hardest part, âhe says.
âWe did not get any support from the government. We survive by using the resources we saved during the good times. We have made continuous profit over the past 18 years. So in 2020 and 21, we are using part of this reserve to close the gap between revenue and expenditure. “
The airline has also raised around $ 150 million through sale-leaseback agreements covering some of its Airbus A320s.
El-Hout says that a return to profits depends both on the development of the Covid-19 pandemic and on the economic and political situation in Lebanon.
âI don’t think we’ll break even until 2024,â he says. âIf things are going in the right direction, maybe it will be sooner. But we have enough resources to survive this.