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MEA signs up with SkyTeam

Middle East Airlines (MEA), Lebanon's national carrier, has become the latest airline to join SkyTeam, the alliance led by Air France-KLM.

Middle East Airlines (MEA), Lebanon's national carrier, has become the latest airline to join SkyTeam, the alliance led by Air France-KLM. The move comes as part of SkyTeam's plans to make inroads into the Middle East.

MEA is the second regional carrier to join the alliance, after Saudi Arabian Airlinesthis month, as increasing numbers of carriers seek tie-ups to gain access to Middle Eastern airports.

"Welcoming MEA to become a full member is a significant step towards enhancing the global network of the alliance," the airline network said. "SkyTeam is actively working to strengthen its presence in the Middle East, one of the world's most important economic regions."

Airline alliances have become increasingly popular among major western carriers as they seek access to markets. Turkish Airlines and Egyptair are members of the Star alliance, which includes Lufthansa and Continental, while Royal Jordanian is in the oneworld grouping led by British Airways and Iberia.

Kareem Murad, an aviation analyst at Shuaa Capital, said the primary benefit for MEA would be marketing edge to increase passenger numbers: "If you're flying with one of the alliances to the Middle East, they'll recommend their partner airlines."

He added that an alliance with local carriers could be the path of least resistance to Middle Eastern markets for some western carriers.

"They have their own networks ready and they'll capitalise upon them," Mr Murad said. "Landing rights aren't something that's easy to obtain."

The UAE and Canada have recently become involved in a spat over airport landing rights, while Lufthansa has also sought to block Emirates Airline from accessing landing slots at Berlin's soon-to-be-completed airport.

Meanwhile, IndiGo, the largest low-cost carrier in India, said it had received approval from the Indian government to expand into Dubai and Oman. IndiGo placed orders this month for 180 Airbus A320 aircraft in a deal worth US$15bn (Dh55.09bn).

The government's approval of international flights will "hasten the process of Indian carriers taking back some of the market share that has been lost over the past many decades to foreign carriers," the company told Bloomberg.



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