Lebanese flag carrier Middle East Airlines (MEA) has flown a wide range of aircraft over the years. Perhaps the most notable family to have flown for the Beirut-based SkyTeam member is the Boeing 747, of which MEA operated two variants between 1975 and 1998. Let’s take a look at the airline’s 18-year relationship with the Queen of the skies.
According to data from ATDB.aero, MEA has flown a total of six 747s over the course of its history. Of these, three were examples of the original 747-100 series. Interestingly, despite being built in 1970 and 1971, they came to the Lebanese airline somewhat later. The first example, EI-BPH, didn’t come onboard until June 1985, on lease from GECAS.
The ex-Air Canada and Malaysia Airlines jet stayed for just three months before departing in September 1985. It went on to fly for multiple African carriers, before spending its final six years (1989-1995) with FedEx before being scrapped. 1986 saw MEA take on another 747-100 from May to June that year. Registered as EI-BRR, it also came from GECAS.
The jet had previously flown for Air Canada and Iberia, and went on to have an incredibly diverse career before ending up at Sunclass Airlines. Like EI-BPH, it was scrapped in Marana, Arizona in 1993. MEA’s final short-term 747 lease occurred in 1993, when it flew F-BPVD in June and July that year. The ex-Air France jet was scrapped in Oklahoma in 1994.
Despite the 747-200 being a slightly later development of Boeing’s jumbo jet, this was, in fact, the first variant that MEA flew. Three of these aircraft quadjets operated high-demand routes like Beirut-London and Beirut-Paris-new York. They all had the ‘SCD’ suffix, denoting the presence of a Side Cargo Door for easier quick-change/Combi cargo operations.
Boeing built all of the 747-200s that MEA operated in 1975, and the airline received them brand-new that year. They had consecutive serial numbers, from 21,097 through to 21,099. OD-AGH arrived on May 30th, followed by OD-AGI on June 20th. OD-AGJ was the final 747-200 to join the Lebanese flag carrier, and it came to Beirut on August 20th, 1975.
During their time at MEA, the three 747-200s were leased to customers including Egyptair, Gulf Air, and Saudia. They have all now either been scrapped or left derelict. OD-AGH last flew for Kalitta Air as N710CK in 2008, with OD-AGI leaving the Dubai Air Wing as A6-GDP in 2010. The longest-serving example was OD-AGJ, which left Kalitta Air as N713CK in 2011.
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No more Boeing jets at MEA
MEA no longer flies Boeing aircraft. According to data from ch-aviation.com, its 24-plane fleet consists solely of Airbus designs. Of these, 19 are narrowbodies, comprising 10 A320s and nine A321neos. MEA also has a further two A321neos and four A321XLRs on order.
As far as long-haul duties are concerned, these are covered by five A330-200s, of which four are presently active. These twinjets have an average age of 11.4 years, but MEA is looking to refresh its widebody fleet with new blood. This will see the delivery of four A330neos, namely examples of the larger -900 variant, which it ordered in December 2018.
What are your memories of flying on MEA’s Boeing 747s? Did you have a particular favorite variant? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!