BEIRUT, May 30 (Reuters) - Lebanon's national airline will
require payment for tickets in U.S. dollars based on the central
bank's latest exchange rate from June 1, Chairman Mohamad
El-Hout said on Sunday, a step that will make tickets more
Middle East Airlines (MEA) chairman El-Hout said
the move was necessary to ensure the financial well being of the
state airline that is majority owned by the central bank.
"If we don't take the company will be hit
financially," Hout told Reuters.
The change, which applies only to tickets bought inside
Lebanon, means ticket payments can no longer be based on a lower
controlled dollar exchange rate.
Tickets bought in Lebanon would now be based on a central
bank benchmark launched this month, which is currently 12,000
Lebanese pounds to the dollar, a rate that is closer to the
unofficial market rate rather than an official rate of about
3,900 Lebanese pounds for dollar account holders in the country.
Lebanese authorities had limited dollar withdrawals, with a
few exceptions under that exchange rate, effectively cutting the
value of those deposits as the unofficial dollar market rate is
now more than 12,800 pounds to the dollar.
Buying airline tickets was one way people could spend
dollars held in local banks.
Before Lebanon's economic crisis that virtually locked
depositors out of their dollar accounts in late 2019, the
exchange rate widely used was 1,500 to the dollar.
Hout said the state carrier, like other airlines, had been
hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic with a sharp drop in
revenues but did not elaborate.
"We will continue to make losses this year," Hout added.
(Writing by Maha Dahan and Suleiman Al-Khalidi. Editing by Jane