Lebanese Expats Report Cancellation Of Their Non-MEA Flights To Lebanon

AP

As the airport’s reopening day draws closer, people preparing to return to Lebanon are reporting that their non-MEA flights are getting canceled.

It’s worth noting that not all flights to Lebanon are being canceled. Emirates recently announced that it will soon be flying to Beirut.

However, those whose flights are being canceled are left with only one alternative: A costly Middle East Airlines flight into their home country.

Since MEA prices are drastically much higher than other airlines, people will have to end up paying double or triple the cost.

Al-Akhbar reported that a Lebanese student in France, called Hassan Jaber, posted on his Facebook that his flight was canceled and he had to pay 1,100 euros for a MEA ticket while his canceled ticket price did not exceed 350 euros.

Jaber also shared on his FB post that his friends in Germany and France had their Lufthansa’s flights canceled as well.

When they called the airlines for an explanation, they were informed that the “flights were suspended by a decision from the management of Beirut Airport,” reported Al-Akhbar.

Many Lebanese seeing their already-booked flights canceled, and those planning to book, and those in Lebanon expecting their family members to come back for summer, are angry, and rightfully so.

Many are sharing their stories an social media, and they are not munching their words.

“Most of the people who want to come back are college students. They cannot afford a $2k plane ticket,” tweeted @sAdsk8erboi.

Some are trying to get the hashtag Boycott_MEA trending. They feel the national carrier is ripping off the Lebanese citizens and those intending to enter the country.

However, at Beirut airport, there are talks that they expect to receive flights from airlines other than the MEA.

From his side, Ziyad Al-Ajouz, the representative of the Federation of Tourism and Travel Agencies, told Al-Akhbar that flights will not be confined to MEA and that many companies will be flying to Lebanon as of first of July.

He cited Air France, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Ethiopian Airlines.

Explaining the flight cancellations of some airline companies, Al-Ajouz said that it’s due to “the 10 percent ceiling imposed by the government as a volume for airport traffic.”

“Accordingly,” he issued, “companies are no longer able to operate daily or more than one trip per day as they have done, and they have to wait for the new flight schedule.”

Addiyar

He also shared that Sun Express Airlines, co-owned by both Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, “is near bankruptcy, which drives them to cancel reservations.”

That still does not explain why that company, alleged edging bankruptcy, would sell tickets then cancel them unexpectedly in a short period of time. The Lebanese students booked their flights recently, at the announcement of the airport reopening’s date.

Some are facing a different yet related issue with booking their flights with MEA:

According to Twitter user @viewmypoint, he’s been trying to book his flight by check from his bank account in dollars but the MEA, which is “owned by Lebanon’s central bank” is not accepting payment in LBP or by check in USD.

On that note, MEA chairman Mohammad Hout had said, back in April, that “MEA is not a commercial company … the Central Bank owns 99 percent of the company’s shares,” as reported by The Daily Star back then.

It is to mention that, back in February, the MEA had issued a new policy of “payments by USD only” It then announced its cancelation at the request of PM Diab and the intervention of President Aoun.

However, based on numerous comments on social media, it appears that the policy is still in force.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hassan Diab is banking on the tourism sector to rejuvenate the economy once the airport reopens.

But with sky-high prices and seemingly limited affordable options, and if true the MEA is striving to dominate the air traffic to Lebanon for time being, that seems farfetched.