Lebanese Army offers tourists helicopter joyrides to boost country's income

World Bank describes economic crisis in Lebanon as one of the worst in 170 years

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2020 file photo, a helicopter flies over a base of the U.N. peacekeeping force, in the southern town of Naqoura, Lebanon. On Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, Lebanon and Israel held a second round of U.S.-mediated talks over their disputed maritime border and agreed on a third meeting. The U.S.-mediated talks are being held in a tent at the U.N. post along the border known as Ras Naqoura, on the edge of the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

The Lebanese Army will start offering tourists helicopter joyrides this week in a bid to fill the coffers of one of the crisis-hit country's key institutions.

Lebanon's economic crisis — which the World Bank describes as possibly one of the world's worst since the 1850s — has hit the Lebanese military hard, leaving it struggling to pay troops a living wage.

In an announcement on its website, the army said it would be offering civilians the chance to see “Lebanon … from above” on 15-minute flights.

The joyrides on-board the army's Robinson R44 Raven helicopters will start on Thursday and will be open to passengers aged three and above.

Up to three passengers will be allowed on-board per flight, which costs about $150 and must be paid in cash.

The aim is “to encourage Lebanese tourism in a new way, in addition to supporting the air force”, a military source told AFP.

The economic crisis has eaten away at the value of soldiers' salaries and slashed the military's budget for maintenance and equipment.

Towards the middle of last year, the army said it had scrapped meat from the meals offered to on-duty soldiers due to rising food prices.

Lebanon has been without a functioning government since a massive blast in Beirut in August last year killed more than 200 people and ravaged sections of the Mediterranean port city.

Politicians have failed to agree on a new Cabinet line-up even as foreign currency cash reserves plummet, causing fuel, electricity and medicine shortages.

Earlier this month, France hosted a donor conference in which 20 nations agreed to provide emergency aid to Lebanon's military.

Updated: July 1st 2021, 11:35 AM
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