Lebanon’s national flag carrier, MEA Airlines, has reportedly moved several of its planes out of the country in anticipation of a possible military strike on Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport.
The news emerged on the same day that several airlines, including SWISS and Lufthansa, suspended flights to Lebanon in light of the deteriorating security situation in the region that has seen clashes on the border between Lebanon and Israel.
MEA is yet to publicly confirm that it has moved some of its planes out of Beirut to avoid them becoming collateral damage in the event that the airport is targeted, but flight records would indicate there might be some truth to the reports.
In recent days, several aircraft have been flown from Beirut to Istanbul under an irregular flight number and have not moved since. These include s 14-year-old Airbus A330, which was ferried to Turkey on October 13, and three Airbus A321neo jets which were flown to Istanbul on October 13 and October 15.
In what is believed to be a leaked internal memo, the airline told staffers that the aircraft wasn’t expecting any disruption to its normal flight schedule as a result of moving the aircraft because they are currently surplus to requirements as the arline enters its winter low season.
The authenticity of the memo has not been verified.
MEA has previously moved its spare aircraft out of harm’s way, most notably in the run-up to the 2006 Lebanon War when Israeli warplanes bombed three runways at Beirut Airport.
Last week, Israel launched a dual assault on Damascus and Aleppo Airports in Syria, damaging the runways and putting the airfields out of action.
MEA Airlines is, unfortunately, no stranger to having its aircraft damaged by deadly weaponry, although the damage is normally caused by accident by small arms fire.
On New Year’s Eve, two parked planes at Beirut Airport were reportedly hit by stray bullets as locals in the vicinity of the airport celebrated the start of 2023 by firing guns into the same air.
And in November 2022, similar celebrations resulted in a packed MEA plane being hit by stray bullet as it came into land at Beirut Airport. Thankfully no one was injured, although the incident was condemned by local officials who called on residents in the vicinity of the airport to stop firing guns into the air.
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.