BEIRUT: Middle East Airlines chairman Mohammad Hout said Thursday that the profits of the national carrier in the first nine months were slightly less than last year but promised to boost productivity and increase working hours to maintain revenues.
“I don’t want to discuss any figures at this moment or make projections but all I can say is that the net profits in the first nine months of 2013 were slightly less than last year,” Hout told The Daily Star in an interview.
MEA’s net profits in 2012 stood at $58 million compared to $40.4 million in 2011, an increase of 43.6 percent.
But the results over the last two years were still lower than in 2010 and 2009.
MEA’s profits rose to a staggering $118.1 million in 2009 and $90.6 million in 2010.
Economists agree that 2008, 2009 and 2010 were the best years for Lebanon in terms of GDP growth, the number of tourist arrivals, foreign direct investment and bank deposits.
Hout warned that if the United States decided to strike Syria then this action would negatively affect MEA because some of its flights go through the neighboring country.
“However, if peace prevails in the region and a settlement is reached, and if the politicians agree to cast aside their differences and form a Cabinet, then this will surely have a positive impact on the carrier,” the MEA chief said.
Asked how MEA would cope with the economic slowdown and regional tension, Hout said the management was increasing the efficiency of the staff, improving flying operations and planning to boost the productivity of employees by lengthening work hours.
“There will be no layoffs of employees, but we have to increase productivity. There won’t be any replacement of employees unless in special circumstances when staff leave after reaching retirement age. We want to increase working hours and have more efficient operations,” he stressed.
Hout also announced the acquisition of a new Airbus plane from France.
The new A320 aircraft, carrying the SkyTeam livery, arrived at Rafik Hariri International Airport Thursday from Toulouse-France.
The new livery consists of an all-metallic silver fuselage and a dark blue empennage with SkyTeam’s logo on it as well as MEA’s logo next to the cockpit door.
With the Airbus plane, MEA’s fleet now stands at 17 aircraft.
“This is the only plane in our fleet with the SkyTeam color and logo,” Hout said.
He said MEA planned to sell two of its aircraft in the next few months because they were 10 to 12 years old.
“We are selling all planes that date back to 10 and 12 years. We want to keep only the new modern planes in our fleet,” Hout said. The next time MEA will buy a plane will be in 2018.
Hour successfully restructured MEA more than 13 years ago after he was appointed chairman of the company.
The airline now conducts flights to 30 destinations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.