Virgin Atlantic Signs Middle Eastern Airlines Codeshare Deal

Virgin Atlantic has today announced that it has signed a new codeshare agreement with Middle East Airlines (MEA). Virgin says the codeshare aims to make travel between Beirut and the United States seamless.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350
Virgin Atlantic is hoping Lebanese Americans will use them and MEA for flights to Beirut. Photo: Getty Images.

Customers booking flights between the Lebanese capital and the United States or vice versa can now effortlessly transfer through London Heathrow Airport. Currently, MEA operates two flights per day using its new Airbus A321neo aircraft.

The flights depart Beirut at 08:10 and 16:05 and land at London Heathrow (LHR) at 11:15 and 19:09. The beauty of the flights is that they arrive at Heathrow Terminal 3, the same place Virgin Atlantic flights to the United States arrive and depart.

The flights use Heathrow Terminal 3

From Terminal 3, arriving MEA passengers can fly on Virgin Atlantic to the following destinations in the United States:

  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Likewise, passengers flying to Beirut from the United States can easily connect to Beirut’s MEA flight via Terminal 3. Most flights from North America to the United Kingdom are scheduled to arrive early in the morning, which means passengers onboard Virgin Atlantic flights will have plenty of time. The MEA flight from London to Beirut departs at 12:50 from Terminal 3. The flight time from London to Beirut is around four hours and thirty minutes.

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Many Lebanese live in the USA

When speaking in the statement about the new codeshare agreement with MEA, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, Juha Jarvinen, said,

“We’re delighted to launch this new codeshare partnership with MEA Middle East Airlines – Air Liban. As we recover from the pandemic, partnerships are more important than ever, and we look forward to building on the incredibly successful interline relationship we have had in place for a number of years.

“With a large diaspora population of Lebanese living in the US, this new partnership aims to respond to the large, fast-growing demand to visit friends and relatives as people start to travel to visit their loved ones post COVID-19.

“We also expect to capture demand for business and leisure travel to the vibrant city of Beirut as travel restrictions begin to relax and global economies gradually recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

A321neo MEA In Fligh
MEA uses its new Airbus A321neos for flights between Beirut and London. Photo: Airbus

In response to that, Head of Commercial Strategy and Alliances at Middle East Airlines Walid  commented:

“Our interline relationship with Virgin Atlantic was the first to target the US travel market to Beirut, and so it is natural for us to partner with Virgin Atlantic and build the first US codeshare agreement targeting Beirut.”

“This new codeshare agreement will expand the commercial partnership between the two companies and their respective countries. At the same time, passengers of both airlines will be given more travel options, especially from Boston, New York JFK, and Los Angeles to Beirut and vice versa via London Heathrow Airport.

“We are hopeful that this partnership will reintegrate Beirut within the global economy as a post-COVID-19 travel destination and will maintain its promise of resilience.”

MEA used to fly to New York via Paris

Founded in 1945, MEA has always had the reputation of being a quality airline that offered regularly scheduled international flights to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa from its base at Beirut Airport. During the 1980s, the SkyTeam alliance member offered flights from Beirut to New York with a short stopover in Paris aboard Boeing 747s.

MEA stopped the Beirut to New York flights in 1985 after it had to readjust its schedule due to the Lebanese Civil War. When MEA canceled the Beirut-New York flights, Air France became the airline of choice. Most Lebanese speak French as a second language and Air France offered a convenient connection through Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).

MEA Boeing 747
From 1983 until 1985, MEA flew from Beirut to New York with a brief stopover in Paris. Photo: Dean Morley via Flickr

According to ArabicPages.com.au, out of the more than 300 million people that call the United States home, 1.5 million are of Arab descent. Of that group, Lebanese American’s make up the largest percentage, with nearly one million people.

Given that, having a single booking reference and check-in and flights that arrive and depart from the same terminal, Virgin Atlantic and Middle East Airlines could see their new codeshare prove lucrative for both airlines.

What do you think about the new Virgin Atlantic and MEA codeshare? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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