Lebanon: airline annuls payments only in dollars

Media, government intervenes after strong popular protest

17 February, 12:53

    BEIRUT - Lebanese national air carrier Middle East Airlines (Mea) has annulled a decision announced yesterday to only accept payment in US dollars amid the growing devaluation of the Lebanese lira.
    Lebanon since last summer has been in deep financial crisis, accentuated by prolonged popular protests that kicked off in Beirut and other areas of the country in mid-October, Banks have imposed since mid-November strong restrictions, limiting the circulation of dollars - used since 1997 in each economic transaction like the local lira - and blocking foreign transfers. Compared to the official exchange rate of a dollar worth 1,500 local liras, the US currency is exchanged on the regular market for about 2,400 liras. The price of goods has gone up by as much as 30% in a few months and the unemployment rate has risen, particularly in poorer areas.
    In this context, considering that the Lebanese diaspora includes over 20 million people living in Africa, Asia, Europe, America and Australia, Mea yesterday announced it would not accept payments in Lebanese liras but only in dollars.
    However hundreds of people gathered at the carrier's airport offices - the only bureaus open on Sunday - to try to buy tickets before the new decision came into effect.
    Meanwhile the move was harshly criticized on social media, prompting the government of Hassan Diab - which fears new protests - to find an agreement with the management of the airline to cancel the new measure. 

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