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During the early years of Syria’s civil war, Middle East Airlines (MEA), the flag-carrier of neighbouring Lebanon, benefited from an uncomfortable spike in demand due to its proximity to the battleground.
With Syrian airspace all but closed to civilian traffic, most refugees who could afford airline tickets drove 110km from Damascus to Beirut before boarding their flights.
That footfall has subsided in recent years as the war-torn state hobbles towards some semblance of normality. At home, flag-carrier Syrian Arab Airlines is plotting to re-build its network with new Russian aircraft that are not subject to Western sanctions. Abroad, a handful of international airlines have tentative plans to resume operations in Damascus.
And while less cross-border demand seems like bad news for MEA, Mohamad El-Hout, the airline’s longstanding chairman, actually wants the trend to continue...