Beirut International Airport is Lebanon's only airport. Middle East Airlines is the national flag-carrier airline of Lebanon, operating scheduled international flights to Asia, Europe and Africa from its base at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport - the airline is majority owned by the central bank of Lebanon. There are no air services operating within Lebanon.
Airports in Lebanon
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Middle East Airlines (MEA) formally joined SkyTeam on 28-Jun-2012, becoming the alliance’s 17th member and second anchor in the fast growing Middle East region. With the addition of Saudi Arabia Airlines (Saudia) to SkyTeam at the end of May-2012, SkyTeam has swiftly and firmly expanded its presence in the region, which had previously been one of the alliance’s chief white spots.
With a fleet of 16 aircraft and only 30 destinations MEA does not have the heft of Saudia, or some other prospective alliance partners in the region. But it also does not come with the baggage that some other partners would bring. Unlike the ‘Big 3’ of the Gulf region – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airlines – MEA’s ambitions and international reach are relatively modest and will not significantly overlap with existing SkyTeam members. It has also been consistently profitable over the past decade, something of a rarity for smaller state-owned carriers in the Middle East, and has an efficient, modern fleet offering reasonable service and product standards.
Saudi Arabia’s Dammam King Fahad International Airport (KFIA), on the other side of the King Fahd Causeway connecting Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, is set to become a home away from home for Gulf Air and Bahrain Air. By the middle of Jun-2012, the two competing Bahraini carriers will be operating 37 weekly flights to/from the airport, located less than 100km from Bahrain International Airport, the home for both carriers and the sole commercial airport in Bahrain.
Dammam is Saudi Arabia’s third largest airport by passenger traffic, after Riyadh and Jeddah. It is also one of just four designated international airports in the country.
One of the outstanding factors in Jazeera Airways’ turnaround over the past 15 months has been the dramatic jump in the yield levels achieved by the carrier. Having shrunk into profitability, the Kuwait-based carrier has fewer routes and less aircraft but has reported five consecutive quarters of record profits and is set to report its best-ever full-year result for 2011.
At the end of 3Q2011, the carrier reported yields of 52.3 Kuwaiti fils, up 42% over 3Q2010 and a remarkable 91% above 3Q2009 levels. Increasing yields are expected to continue through the final quarter of 2011 and into 2012. This provides a tremendously strong platform for the carrier to develop from, as it puts in place its strategic development plan over the next few years.
The ripples from the Arab Spring continue to spread. Air Arabia, the largest LCC in the Middle East, announced in Jun-2011 that it would delay the launch of its Jordanian JV due to the downturn in traffic in the region, as well as higher oil prices. While the political and social environment in Jordan is described by the carrier as “stable”, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia still have not resolved local political instability.
Air France has announced plans to move away from its Paris-centric strategy and moved into regional French market in a bid to counter the growing threat of low-cost carriers in its home market, which remains one of Europe’s few remaining spaces for growth in the sector.
Saudi Arabia’s LCC experiment may be drawing to an unwelcome close. nasair, the kingdom’s first – and now sole surviving – LCC announced it has suffered a 1Q2011 loss, due to the troubled situation in the Middle East and North Africa reducing passenger traffic and the increasing price of oil.