Beirut International Airport back in business

Passenger traffic has resumed at Beirut’s Rafik Al Hariri International Airport, but the tourism industry still has a long way to recovery.

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By  Joseph Mortimer Published  September 25, 2006

Passenger traffic has resumed at Beirut’s Rafik Al Hariri International Airport, but the tourism industry still has a long way to recovery. Middle Eastern Airways and Royal Jordanian Airways (RJ) were the first carriers to resume services to and from Beirut, followed by Qatar Airways, which landed in Beirut on Monday September 4 with 120 passengers on board. RJ has resumed its three-times-a-day service to Beirut, but said most of the planes that served that route were grounded during the conflict. "It was too late to divert planes to another route unfortunately. We lost a good number of passengers during the peak season,” said Hussein Dabbas, vice president, marketing, sales and services, RJ. Dabbas said RJ's European flights - from London and Paris - were those impacted the most because Europeans were the most wary of travelling to the Middle East. He said it was too early to calculate the financial losses of the conflict to RJ. "I don't want to guess at this point," he added. Most regional carriers including Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, Oman Air, Kuwait Airways and Egypt Air had resumed flights to Beirut by September 9. The first western carrier to return to Lebanon was British Airways. Dutch carrier KLM has decided not to resume flights to Beirut, and will cancel its services to Amman and Damascus from October 29. But hotels in Beirut are still feeling the effects of the conflict, according to Michael Lutze, director of sales, Leading Hotels of the World. "[Le Royal Beirut is] running at 20% at the most, which is a shame because the property was doing quite nicely this season,” he said. “I think the crisis has put Lebanon back [in terms of tourism], five to 10 years."

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