Virgin Atlantic inks new codeshare agreement with Middle East Airlines, but what does it mean for passengers?

Jul 28, 2021

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Virgin Atlantic has a new partner. On Wednesday, the airline announced that it had signed a codeshare agreement with Beirut-based Middle East Airlines-Air Liban (MEA).

The new codeshare agreement will allow passengers to connect onto the respective carriers’ route network via their hubs at London Heathrow (LHR) and Beirut (BEY).

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Virgin Atlantic is betting on the “large diaspora population” of Lebanese living in the U.S. to fuel the codeshare. More specifically, it’s betting that travellers would be looking to fly between Virgin Atlantic’s destinations in the U.S. via Heathrow and on to Lebanon.

“As we recover from the pandemic, partnerships are more important than ever, and we look forward to building on the incredibly successful interline relationship we have had in place for a number of years,” Virgin Atlantic Chief Commercial Officer Juha Jarvinen said in a statement.

Related: Watch as TPG UK reviews Middle East Airlines (MEA) in business and economy at the same time

While Virgin is mostly looking at the leisure market for this codeshare and visiting friends and relatives, it’s also looking to take advantage of business travel as Beirut begins to relax some of its travel restrictions that have been in place since the start of the pandemic,

“Our interline relationship with Virgin Atlantic was the first to target the U.S. travel market to Beirut, and so it is natural for us to partner with Virgin Atlantic and build the first U.S. codeshare agreement targeting Beirut,” Middle East Airlines head of commercial strategy and alliances Walid Abillama said in a statement. “We are hopeful that this partnership will reintegrate Beirut within the global economy as a post-COVID-19 travel destination and will maintain its promise of resilience.”

What can passengers expect from the new codeshare? The main component of the codeshare will come in the form of passengers being able to seamlessly connect on itineraries between Lebanon and the U.S. Both Virgin Atlantic and MEA operate out of Heathrow’s Terminal 3, which means that connections can be seamlessly made at LHR.

For example, if someone is travelling from Boston to Beirut, they would be able to fly with Virgin Atlantic to Heathrow (LHR). They would then be able to connect at T3 and onto an MEA flight to Beirut.

Unfortunately, this codeshare does not allow members to earn and redeem Virgin Points for MEA flights at this time. However, Virgin told TPG it hopes to have an agreement in place in the near future.

Ultimately, while this isn’t necessarily a game-changing partnership, it’s good to see Virgin Atlantic adding new partners to its portfolio.

Featured photo courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

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