Middle East Airlines (MEA) of Lebanon has taken delivery of the first of six A321s scheduled for delivery during the year 2003 from Airbus. As part of a ceremony held in Toulouse in the presence of His Excellency, Lebanese Minister of Transport Najib Mikati, the A321 was handed over to Middle East Airlines Chairman Director General Mohamed El Hout by Airbus President Noël Forgeard.

Middle East Airlines already operates a leased Airbus fleet from the early '90s, which the new aircraft will progressively replace. MEA will also integrate three new leased long-range widebody twin A330-200s, due for delivery this year, as part of its fleet modernisation plan.

The Beirut-based Lebanese flag carrier will operate its new A321 fleet on non-stop routes to the Gulf and Europe, as well as within the Middle East region.

Middle East Airlines' A321s feature a luxurious seating for 31 passengers in business class and 118 in economy, with personal television screens for everyone. MEA's A321s are powered by V2533 engines from International Aero Engines (IAE), featuring a quietness that meets tough new stage 4 noise standards.

"Middle East Airlines current healthy financial situation and fleet modernization are the results of collective and combined efforts from the airline's management and staff, as well as Lebanon's Central Bank and Government's Transport Ministry" said His Excellency Lebanese Minister of Transport Najib Mikati.

Middle East Airlines Chairman Director General Mohamed El Hout also added: "Our main objective is to offer the most luxurious product to our passengers. The last part of our successful re-structuring plan was fleet modernisation, and Airbus was a winning choice. The A321 offers an optimized comfort for passengers as well as the lowest operating cost, emissions and noise footprints in it's size category. It was a natural choice for MEA."

"We are very proud to be part of Middle East Airlines' future, to which this all new Airbus fleet should profitably contribute" said Airbus President Noël Forgeard.

Designed to optimise passenger comfort and maximise cost savings, the A318, A319, A320 and A321 form the world's most profitable and best-selling single aisle-aircraft Family. The Family is in widespread service around the world with some 120 customers and operators, including several airlines within the Middle East.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.