Two parked passenger aircraft at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport have been hit by stray bullets from celebratory gunfire to mark the New Year. The aircraft, belonging to Middle East Airlines (MEA), did not have any passengers or crew onboard at the time of the incident on Sunday morning.
The two aircraft are understood to be almost brand new Airbus A321neo aircraft. One aircraft is less than two years old, while the other has been flown new by the airline from when it was built and delivered in July 2020.
According to local media, the aircraft have been towed to a hangar where they will undergo repairs. The damage, which appears to be several very distinctive bullet holes in the fuselage of the aircraft, is not understood to be serious.
Celebratory shooting into the air is commonplace across Lebanon, especially at weddings and funerals, as well as New Year’s Eve.
MEA chairman Mohamad El-Hout says damage caused by stray bullets around Beirut Airport is so commonplace that as many as eight parked aircraft were struck by negligent gunfire in 2021.
In November 2022, the worrying phenomenon came to prominence when an MEA plane on final approach to Beirut Airport was struck by a stray bullet which pierced a hole in the main passenger cabin and penetrated an overhead locker.
None of the passengers or crew on the short 40-minute flight from Amman, Jordan were injured. Following the incident, lawmakers demanded action be taken to stop people firing into air around the airport.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.