London-based Virgin Atlantic airlines and Middle East Airlines-Air Liban signed a strategic collaboration deal that included a new unilateral codeshare agreement that extended beyond their respective hubs. It will give passengers more options for joining the respective carriers’ route networks, making connections between the United States and Beirut via London Heathrow more seamless.
This new codeshare arrangement will strengthen the commercial cooperation between the two companies and their respective countries. Customers booking through Virgin Atlantic will be able to fly between Boston, New York JFK, and Los Angeles and Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, with seamless connections between the two carriers at London Heathrow Terminal 3.
As Virgin Atlantic and Middle East Airlines have a single booking reference and check-in, as well as flights that arrive and depart from the same terminal, their new codeshare might be profitable for both airlines. In the meantime, we don’t know if this is a game-changer or not, even though it’s fantastic to see Virgin Atlantic expanding its portfolio with new partners.
As words from Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, continues:
“We’re excited to announce our new codeshare agreement with MEA Middle East Airlines-Air Liban. Partnerships are more crucial than ever as we recover from the pandemic, and we look forward to expanding on the tremendously successful interline relationship we’ve had for several years.
He continued, “With a huge immigrant community population of Lebanese living in the United States, our new cooperation aims to answer to the large, rapidly-growing demand to visit friends and relatives as individuals begin to travel to see their loved ones following Covid-19. As travel restrictions ease and global economies gradually recover from the pandemic’s impact, we hope to capture demand for business and leisure travel to Beirut’s lively city.”
Customers purchasing flights between Beirut and the United States or vice versa can now transfer through London Heathrow Airport with ease. Passengers arriving at Terminal 3 can now fly to three locations in the United States on Virgin Atlantic. Boston Logan International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport are the three airports in question.
The flights leave Beirut at 08:10 and 16:05, respectively, and arrive at 11:15 and 19:09 at London Heathrow (LHR). The flights have the advantage of arriving at Heathrow Terminal 3, where Virgin Atlantic flights to the United States enter and depart. Passengers flying to Beirut from the United States can also easily connect to the MEA flight from Terminal 3. At 12:50, the MEA aircraft from London to Beirut leaves Terminal 3. It takes about four hours and thirty minutes to fly from London to Beirut.
The Head of Commercial Strategy and Alliances at Middle East Airlines, Walid Abillama, also commented announcing the agreement:
“Since our interline connection with Virgin Atlantic was the first to target the US travel market to Beirut, it is only natural that we collaborate with Virgin Atlantic and construct the first US codeshare arrangement targeting Beirut. We are optimistic that this relationship will help Beirut reintegrate into the global economy as a post-Covid-19 tourist destination while also ensuring its resilience.”
According to Virgin Atlantic, the codeshare will be fueled by the “large diaspora population” of Lebanese in the United States. It’s the wager that passengers will want to fly from Virgin Atlantic’s destinations in the United States to Heathrow and then to Lebanon. About 1.5 million individuals of Arab heritage live in the United States, which has more than 300 million people. With approximately one million persons, Lebanese Americans make up the most significant percentage of this group.