Chairman confident of future success
The chairman of Middle East Airlines (MEA), Mohammed Hout, projected Wednesday that his company will generate an operating profit of $15 million at the end of 2003, thanks to the high tourist season and a restructuring plan.
MEA, which has been owned by the Central Bank since 1996, recorded a $3 million profit in 2002, the first such achievement in almost 25 years.
Hout expects profits to surge in the future even further if the tourist season remains strong and the regional situation remains relatively stable.
But Hout did not want to project the profits of MEA in 2004, although he did not rule out impressive results.
According to Hout, MEA's image has been further boosted with the purchase of six new Airbus planes and the lease of three more. The newly acquired fleet has a seating capacity 20 percent higher than older aircraft and the entire fleet has been equipped with state-of-the-art individual video screens.
Hout, who was appointed by the Central Bank as head of the airline three years ago, said he had the biggest challenge in his career: containing the losses and turning the company into a profitable institution. He added that he is confident that MEA can return to its former glory.
"MEA suffered a loss of $87 million in 1997. This prompted the new board of directors to review the situation and determine why the company was losing so much money," Hout told The Daily Star.
"One of the first things the board of directors did was to cancel the long haul flights of MEA to Brazil and Australia because these routes were too costly."
Hout cut the number of destinations from 45 to 19 and shut down several offices overseas.
MEA also formed an alliance with Air France and uses Paris as a hub for the national carrier, to fly to 180 destinations around the world, including the US and South America, and this "network redesign has led to a better utilization of the MEA... [continues]
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