Passengers forced to disembark as Lebanese presidency 'commandeers' plane for trip to New York
Over 150 passengers heading from Beirut to Cairo on a midday flight were forced into changing their travel plans as the aircraft was required by Michel Aoun for his trip to the UN General Assembly in New York.
The passengers were placed on alternative evening flights, the airliner said.
"An apology was issued to the passengers affected by the delay," Middle East Airlines said via Twitter on Monday.
Aoun, who uses the airliner's jets for his international trips, was heading to New York for the 73rd round of a UN General Assembly session.
According to Lebanese media, the 83-year-old president was accompanied by a large delegation of some 50 individuals, including security personnel, advisers and journalists, as well as his wife, daughter and personal doctor.
Aoun's office issued a statement on Monday that said the president was not responsible for the evacuation of the flight.
On arrival to New York, Aoun stressed on the importance of his participation in the session, saying it will allow him to convey Lebanon's position on regional and international issues to world leaders.
"Let the whole world hear Lebanon's positions regarding issues of priority," said Aoun in a statement on Monday.
"The current conditions in Lebanon and neighbouring countries make Lebanese participation in the meetings of the General Assembly a necessity dictated by the accuracy of the stage."
The official UN meeting delegation includes foreign minister Gebran Bassil and Lebanon's ambassador to the UN Amal Mudallali.