As many as 150 passengers were deplaned from a passenger flight in Lebanon on Monday after the plane was abruptly designated to take Lebanese President, Michel Aoun and his delegation to New York. The plane belonging to Middle East Airlines (MEA), Lebanon’s national flag-carrier airline, was heading from Beirut to Cairo. Passengers were forced to disembark from the plane and, as a result, remained stuck at the airport for 9 hours. On the other end, another 100 passengers were stuck at the Cairo airport as they waited for the same fight to take them back to Beirut. The event sparked a string of messages on social media. There were posts suggesting that the plane was confiscated to join a large fleet of four aircraft allocated to transfer Aoun and his delegation to attend the UN General Assembly meetings in New York.
@MEAAIRLIBAN can you explain what was the reason of postponing the 308 flight to Cairo this morning for 8 hours without any previou snotice and explanations? do you know that some passengers might have important meetings and committments? they owe you the minimum of respect
— Ziad Abdel Samad (@ziadas) September 23, 2018
Lebanese MP Paula Yacoubian reacted sarcastically in a reference to the Lebanese President on her twitter account: “The father of all, put everyone down and flew away”. The airline apologized to the passengers that were meant to board their midday flights. Meanwhile, the presidential media office issued a statement Monday saying the presidency was not responsible for the controversial evacuation of a Middle East Airline flight Sunday.
MEA flight 305 was scheduled to take off from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport to Cairo Sunday at 12:30 p.m. However, passengers were abruptly asked to disembark the plane. According to the NNA, reports the plane was evacuated to accommodate Aoun’s delegation to New York, which caused a delay in the flights of some of the other travelers. According to NNA, MEA said the situation was beyond its control and that it made every effort “to secure [the passengers’] travel on another evening flight [headed] to their intended destination.”
The statement from Aoun’s office said the measures taken with respect to the president’s flight to New York on an MEA plane have been the same as those taken in the past 10 years. “Any disruption that took place is the responsibility of the party concerned with organizing air traffic,” the statement added. Booking two planes for the president and his delegation is a regular security measure, an airport source was quoted as telling a Lebanese newspaper . However, it is not determined ahead of time which plane they are set to board, the source explained.
One analyst told YaLibnan. ” You would think that in a country as small as Lebanon and with a tiny airline like MEA it should be so simple to coordinate this issue and avoid disrupting the lives of hundreds of people in both Beirut and Cairo . Unfortunately no body seems to care about the ordinary people anymore . MEA is supposed to be the most experienced airline in the Middle East and Aoun rarely leaves Baabda palace . Welcome to Lebanon where disruption of people’s life is the name of the game ”
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