Lebanon’s national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA) is apparently on the offensive and has decided to win passengers by slashing its prices. In an email received from their Dubai sales office today:

MEA is glad to offer a tempting winter special fare to all passengers flying on Economy class
Dubai – Beirut – Dubai
Fare Starting from AED 550*

That’s about US$150 for a return ticket. The (*) leads you to their footnote where the price excludes taxes and surcharges but provides a generous 30kg luggage allowance.

So why slash prices? It’s simply intense competition. Living in Dubai, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to arriving at Rafik Hariri International. During the winter MEA and Emirates fly about 21 flights a week each (Emirates also deploy their larger capacity planes during the holiday season), and the low-cost carrier FlyDubai usually increases its flights from 14 to 21 a week during the same time. And if that’s not enough, you can also fly Malaysia Airlines which also operates direct flights between Beirut and Dubai (though only 3 times a week). And if you feel adventurous, you can make the 15-minute drive to Sharjah International and board any of Air Arabia’s 9 weekly flights to Beirut.

MEA sure has its work cut out.

Flightglobal: MEA's A320-232 approaching Dubai International (November 2009)
Flightglobal: MEA’s A320-232 approaching Dubai International (November 2009)

Update – October 20, 2010

I’ve read Mustapha’s post which lead to Shop Talk Beirut’s blog complaining about the offer from MEA (horrible sales staff and “misleading” offer price). Now, I can’t vouch for the sales operators but the fuel surcharge is no surprise and shouldn’t be if you are a regular flyer. The majority of airlines advertise their rates excluding taxes and surcharges. That is why the email from MEA has specifically mentioned AED550*, which informed you at the bottom that the price excludes taxes and surchages.Lebanon has very high airport taxes so really it shouldn’t be a surprise. The offer is still quite good considering you are flying a full-service airline and they are offering 30kg of luggage storage instead of the usual 20kg – a big positive for the myriad of families which head to Beirut during the winter.