Sunday, March 1, 2009

Open Letter to Virgin Atlantic

Would a Million Lebanese expatriates flying to Lebanon in May-June 2009 boost airline sales?
I have a suggestion to the airline who's CEO Sir Richard Branson is famous for his social entrepreneurship; Virgin Atlantic.
A reported 10 million Lebanese live abroad, more than twice as many as in Lebanon. Part of this Lebanese diaspora reverses itself over the summer, which this year includes one crucial date, June 7th, when a new Lebanese parliament will be elected to replace the one elected in 2005, the year when Syrian troops gradually withdrew from Lebanon. The current Lebanese parliament postponed a law that allows Lebanese people to vote from abroad, until 2013, even though most of the Lebanese live abroad. This left Lebanese expatriate with two choices, give up on having a truly representative parliament, or pay for expensive airline tickets to Lebanon by election day.
Large airlines fly about 5 to 6 million passengers per month. If 10% of the Lebanese diaspora went home for the elections, 1 million passengers will need 2-way tickets, not a far fetched number from the 750,000 who reserved their vacation for the summer of 2008 ("Lebanon elects army chief as president", msnbc, May 25th 2008), about 20% of an airline's monthly sales.
Many Lebanese residents are eager to host voters flying in for the elections and have a centuries-overdue truly democratic elections, but this does not alleviate travel costs. One organization pays for voters' tickets, but only if they vote for the current majority in power. This is election in considered election fraud, not to mention that westernized Lebanese do not appreciate this intrusion on their private choices in an election, even fro a party they do support.
As a Lebanese expatriate I support the idea of the highest number of Lebanese voters possible flying into Lebanon for the elections, regardless of whom they support. They all have equal rights to register their vote, on June 7th, 2009.
My suggestion is that Virgin Atlantic offers a discount on flights to Beirut from May 10th until 5th of June, a time period when voters can retrieve their ID card before voting on June 7. The airline would not only boost its sales, but also facilitate the first free parliamentary elections in Lebanon. The emergence of new democracies is after all a very noble social enterprise, that benefits the entire world.

1 comment:

  1. so how much is a tkt to lebanon in that period of time any way


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