About Our visit to Lebanon
Below writeup from Charles Kennedy:
Epic week in Lebanon. In many ways, Lebanon is in bad shape. The currency collapsed and lost 90% of its value. That means everything imported costs ten times more than before. The black market rate is LLP29,000 to $1. The biggest note is LLP100,000 and that’s worth about $3.70 so changing money is like robbing a bank. And let’s not forget one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port in August 2020, killing 218, displacing 300,000 and costing the country $15 billion.
The obstacle of Lebanon is that each of its 18 religions (which roughly break down as 30% Sunni, 30% Shia, 30% Christian and 10% other) are more distrustful of other groups gaining power than they are disgusted by their own totally corrupt ruling families who spawn generation after generation of mafiosi gangster leaders.
For sure the current system is not delivering in any form. Beirut is a huge and bustling city with no public transport, and almost no electricity. Every building has its own generator, but many shops and apartments have no power for much of the day, and there are no working traffic lights or street lights. Walking back to the hotel after dinner is a major challenge as the footpaths are uneven and booby trapped with stubs of pipes and potholes. The traffic is terrifying but you rely on the light from the cars that are trying to run you over to avoid disappearing down an uncovered manhole.
There is plenty to be optimistic about. Despite incredible pressure such as accepting one million refugees from Syria next door and the economic crisis, they have not gone back to the bad old days of inter-communal violence. And maybe life is so tough that they will find a new way of running things that will be an example to the world. One of the smartest, most cultured and entrepreneurial people, they certainly have it in them.
Every time I visit, Lebanon is a different country. The learning curve this time is that it’s no longer a post-civil war society. While the consequences are still a major factor and many buildings still have bullet holes if you look (or chicken pox patches where they’ve been filled in), the civil war is something that happened to parents and grandparents. Lebanon is a different animal now, a big, hot, old, young, bustling enigma.
After 3 days in the country, I returned to Rafic Hariri Int’l Airport in Beirut to fly out.
Before departure, I visited the MEA Cedar Lounge. The lounge has been refurbished and has a nice setting and good tarmac views.
The lounge has a few choices of hot and cold snacks, bread and salad.
One side of the lounge has some fantastic views of the apron.
There is also a Spa service (pay) in Cedar Lounge. $50 for an hour long massage.
I flew on an older MEA A330-200 to Dubai.
MEA's A330-200 has 44 Business Class and 200 Economy Class seats. The Business Class span over 2 sections with row 5 being the exit row with ample leg room.
We departed with spectacular views of the Beirut skyline. Another beautiful day in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Watch the video for the takeoff views.
The service started with drinks on the trolley, then dinner.
The rest of the flight went quickly and was uneventful. The landscape of coastline quickly changed back to desert as we headed east towards Syria, Iraq, and the Gulf.
Business Class was about 60% full while Economy was 80% filled.
Watch the video for full landing.
My Impression of MEA
My impression of MEA - Middle East Airlines flight was very positive. Prior to COVID, the company were profitable 18 years in a row. It is vital that MEA stay ahead of what's happening in Lebanon and continue to be the lifeline of the country.
The strength of this boutique airline is the hospitality and food. The A321neo is new with good IFE and it also has Wi-Fi. However, the A330 cabin is showing signs of age and two A330s will be sold soon, according to the airline. MEA supposedly ordered the A330-900neo but there is no information on delivery dates yet.
One good thing about MEA is the relatively generous award availability on redemption using Skyteam miles.
MEA will be the launch customer of A321XLR. So hopefully it will have a better product for longer flights.