From the boarding area in Brussels I can tell that my flight to Beirut will not be full. For me this is a good thing for two reasons. One, I will probably get to stretch out in coach and more importantly I will have a window seat.
With no de-icing required, it does not take long before Middle East Airline Flight 216 is airborne for Beirut.
This is my first time flying a Middle East airline and I am quickly impressed by the attentiveness of what seems to be by American standards an over-staffed crew. The flight attendants are very business like and seem more that eager to help passengers find their proper seats even on a half full airplane.
We are served (for free) a hot meal in coach which seems to be lacking on most flights in the United States.
However, in reading their on board magazine there maybe somewhat of an explanation for this. MEA has recently been granted a 12 year extension of it's rights to be the exclusive airline to and from Lebanon. This can be seen as somewhat of a competitive edge which may in turn allow MEA to provide a better product for its passengers. A win-win situation.
About three hours and forty minutes into the flight we begin our approach into Beirut under smoggy skies that clear as we descend lower. From my seat I begin to see “Paris Of The East” although the landscape reminds me somewhat of Manhattan, New York when arriving into La Guardia airport.
Our route takes us along the downtown shores of Beirut where I get a birds eye-view of Pigeons Rock before Flight 216 touches down ahead of schedule.