September 17, 2016

MEA's Pilots: A Tribute to the World's Finest

Sometimes you just have to stop a moment and appreciate things for what they are, appreciate people for who they are and what they do… Today, I want to pay a personal tribute to MEA’s pilots. Yes MEA pilots known worldwide for their professionalism, smoothness in takeoff and landing…

Ok, some of us don’t see eye to eye when it comes to what we think of MEA’s staff, hostesses, customer service… I give you that and agree there’s a lot to be done to help them reach the standards required.  But you can't say a word about MEA pilots; they are probably the worlds finest.

I am lucky to have the chance to travel quiet a lot, due to my work. Of course, every time I am onboard a plane I get goose bumps and feel that twitch in my stomach as if it's the first time for me. I have experienced travelling with pilots who work by the book and others whose main concern is to find better solutions for passengers’ comfort and safety. AirFrance, KLM, Alitalia, SwissAir, Etihad Airways, Emirates… Yes they are good but in my opinion, MEA’s pilots out stand them all. Let me tell you why.

I decided to write my thoughts about MEA’s pilots after having the chance to meet Captain Majdalani, Captain Haddad, Captain Delifer and others who personally invited me to ask all the questions I was curious to get answers for…

The view from the cockpit is a dream, nothing like what you see in the back. A 180 degrees view of the beautiful world: Calm, serene, colorful, of all kinds and the best is when you see the view in the winter on a clear day. I prefer the one in A330 where you can move around as opposed to the one in A320 which has a smaller cockpit. Guests can even sit in the middle seat facing the control board on an A330.

The best part is the way MEA pilots land their planes. Landing onboard MEA is phenomenal and they do it gracefully, truly they are kings of the sky. They don't use autopilot to land for the comfort of passengers. The plane is carefully handled while the back wheels touch smoothly before the front ones. One side, then the other, calmly and majestically before traveling the runway all the way to the end.


Let's start:

Captain Delifer has a special way of welcoming passengers. He takes them on a journey as time passes. He makes sure to welcome passengers before the plane starts taxiing then takes the microphone again to introduce his crew, the co-pilot and chief of cabin to the passenger. It's not over yet because he continues by inviting passengers to look left or right at the beautiful scenery around. Before landing he thanks his you crew for the flight… What a gentleman!

Captain Delifer invited me for a small chit chat in the cockpit and the unimaginable happened; an Emirates A380 passed just a few meters above our heads giving me the chance to take one of the most beautiful photos of a plane, and that with my phone. Captain Delifer makes it fun while taking it seriously; I've learned a lot that day… I've learned about planes and life.

We were going to Brussels under Captain Majdalani's commands. He handles commands with such an art and such a finesse that landing was like a dream. Retard... Retard... Retard... The autopilot speaking in the background while the wheels touched the runway. It's about the passion they have for their job and it clearly shows in every move they do.

Captain Haddad is an experience of its own. Stories, you'll have by the hundreds and when it comes to landing, a true master.

MEA is improving and one can't deny it. Food is being changed, the menu has been changed, uniforms are new, food choices are improving, Skyteam partnership while customer service and prices still are at their early stages of international standards.

Hostesses and stewards are better and are recruited with higher standards. They smile and look pleasant. But they need more training. Sadly some should not be recruited at all and those are the ones who need to learn manners at home before getting in touch with people.

Three languages well spoken, captains welcome you into their world. Proud to be flying Middle East they start in English, Arabic or French follows.

A detail I like: you don't have to listen anymore to annoying voices of mispronounced words in English and French. Landing and take off instructions are now recorded in French, English and the language of the destination country. It was Italian for Milano.

Dubai here I come. Outbound on A330, inbound on A320, both flights were smooth and enjoyable. Three hours and thirty minutes passed like seconds. Two major things I like about Middle East pilots; they avoid turbulence even if the route takes more time and safety and comfort pass before fuel economy. Other than that, the pilots make sure to land the plane themselves and don't leave it up to the autopilot to do the job.

Plane caresses the runway on landing while the autopilot hits the back wheels first in a bump your back couldn't but feel.

Our local airline may have lots of issues, but also great captains and a very low incidents ratio and this should be taken into account. Keep the hope high for some of our local companies and institutions...

It was April, the month of flowers, Spring and freshness. I was travelling in the morning back from Seoul with a stopover in Paris and I chose Middle East to be my airline carrier. I'm not sure why but I felt like filming the takeoff; which was as smooth as sailing on water, my hand didn't even move and I was sure that landing was going to be as good. Due to some incidents at the airport, the flight was delayed for twenty minutes. The captain handled it perfectly well.

Thirty minutes after take off he takes the microphone and explains the situation in perfect English. He welcomed us onboard, explained the route we were taking incase we were interested to look out the window and promised to make it on time to Beirut and concluded with a small reminder for us to adjust our watches according to local time. Very professional the captain puts a smile on my face. I even stopped listening to my music, removed my earphones to listen to his words. The pilot's name is Walid Yassin.

What a landing! Two thumbs up for this ballet act.

Captain Mounir Mina was the captain onboard MEA in charge of flying us back home from Cairo on the 20th of May. I honestly wasn't expecting less than perfection like any other flight on Middle East Airlines. A smooth takeoff and another smooth landing. He started his  communication with us with a "Massa2 el Khayr".

At this point we're almost in the middle of the year. This May, coming back from Kuwait I personally met Captain Assaily who happened to be walking the cabin. A smile on his face he was greeting passengers before going back to his cockpit. He was making sure the cabin was under control. We took off in style the Lebanese way and landed even smoother.

Istanbul was next on the list and that was when I met a new pilot, Captain Dany Darico, if I heard his name properly. Flying the A330 all the way from Turkey, it was a flight as smooth as it should be with a Middle East Airlines signature landing.

It's time for an evaluation after all these flights. None of the trips on MEA can even be considered average; our pilot’s dance with their planes, they don't fly them. A smooth take off, a pleasant landing mastered to perfection for your comfort.

A long article indeed, an article I won't be closing before talking about Roula Hoteit, MEA's first female captain. She is a master!

Forget the food, the lack of finesse and training, the brisk hostesses or the tight economy seat... You can say whatever you want about Middle East Airlines but surely nothing about their pilots.


The Radisson Blu Kuwait City


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