Middle East Airlines (MEA) To Become Airbus A321 XLR Launch Customer - TechGeek365

Middle East Airlines (MEA) To Become Airbus A321 XLR Launch Customer

middle east airlines to become airbus a321 xlr launch customer

When you think of aviation, Lebanon is certainly not a country that comes to mind. With a single crippling airport and lack of basic services, there’s definitely plenty of room for improvement. Surprisingly enough though, Lebanon’s flag carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA) has thrown its weight behind Airbus’s widely anticipated A321 XLR project and plans to become an early operator of the aircraft when it hopefully launches in 2023.

“Middle East Airlines is one of the first launch customers of the 321 XLR,” Mohamad El Hout, the airline’s chairman said during the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) this month.

When asked whether MEA has already signed a purchase agreement for the yet-to-be launched model, he clarified: “It is not confirmed. It has not been announced. But I think 90% it’s going to be launched. We have agreed with Airbus to purchase the A321 XLR depending on if they launch it, and we will take deliveries in 2023.”

The airline plans to induct four XLRs, drawing from an existing commitment for 15 A321 neos.

Airbus has still not publicly committed to developing the A321 XLR – an extended-range version of its narrow-body A321 LR model – but a formal announcement is all but certain at this week’s Paris Air Show. The manufacturer is known to have been talking to prospective customers about the project since last year.

El Hout said the A321 XLR will enable Lebanon’s flag carrier to deepen its footprint in Africa while potentially expanding to Asia.

“We can increase the frequencies to Africa,” he said, referring to MEA’s existing routes to Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Accra, Ghana; and Lagos, Nigeria. “Also a smaller plane will give us the flexibility to operate thinner routes to Africa that we cannot operate now, like Kinshasa or Abuja, and it opens for us possibilities to go to the East if needed in the future, to India. The XLR really will be a game-changer.”

Prior to receiving its four XLRs, MEA will take delivery of nine brand new A321 neos in 2020 and two additional ones in 2021.

The flag carrier has not yet decided whether those units will be standard or LR variants. MEA “doesn’t need the LR”, El Hout said, but the company typically opts for models with extra fuel tanks where available because of their higher residual values.

Four A330-900 neos will also arrive in Beirut in 2021, potentially enabling route launches to North America if the U.S. and Canada ease their restrictions on MEA.

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments!

Amir H. Nasr Editor-in-Chief @TechGeek365.com Instagram: @amir_nasr Twitter: @AmirNasr


  1. Tarek Masri

    June 20, 2019 at 8:50 AM

    Still no flat beds. MEA really needs to up their game with the horrible Recaro CL5710 seats they’re getting on the A321, a simple upgrade to the Recaro CL6710 would have done the trick.


  2. Jalal Haidar

    July 2, 2019 at 4:35 AM

    Since its founding in 1945, MEA has become the aviation soul of Lebanon. It withstood many painful and costly tests including a devastating attack on Beirut International Airport in the late 1960s, the Lebanese civil war that witnessed daily bombardment of MEA’s main hub and aircraft, global airline deregulation and more than one global economic recession. Without going into details, when Mohammed El Hout took over at MEA, the airline was practically bankrupt, suffering from serious operational losses, crippling debt, serving questionable money losing routes and operating an old fleet in addition to more than 50% redundancy in its workforce. But MEA’s problems were not by design as most resulted from a devastating civil war. The Airline continued to operate courageously but nearly collapsed towards the end of the civil war. This made El Hout’s task to rescue the airline near impossible. However, he effectively led a successful team, beat the odds and rescued a beautiful but crippled airline. With zero protection from the Lebanese government in an Open Skies era, MEA was turned around to become once again a safe, profitable and successful air carrier while competing with its big neighbors and their deep pockets. With all the above said, my statement comes from a personal working experience for MEA, with my dear friend and brother Mohammed El Hout when he took over as well as most recently. MEA, Mohammed El Hout and his team deserve the support of every Lebanese traveler and citizen. They did a miraculous job saving Lebanon’s aviation Phoenix.

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