MALAYSIA AIRLINES announced on Wednesday that it was finalizing plans to launch a new airline catering to passengers undertaking the Muslim pilgrimages of Haj and Umrah.
Reuters reported that the new airline will put to use its six A380 superjumbos after the company failed to sell them. The airline also said that the Airbus jets do not make economic sense at a time of cutbacks.
Group chief executive officer Peter Bellew said, “Malaysia Airlines is already transporting Muslim pilgrims on charter flights to Saudi Arabia very successfully and is in a good position to cater for increased passenger on demand for this route.”
The Haj is an annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, with more than a million Muslims traveling by air to the region. Meanwhile, the Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca can be done at any time of the year.
The Star reported that if executed well, the airline should capitalize on Muslims markets in Africa who travel to Saudi Arabia every year.
— GlobalIslamicEconomy (@GIESummit) September 26, 2016
The troubled airline has been trying to turn things around since the twin tragedies in 2014 which saw the disappearance of flight MH370, what’s said to be aviation’s greatest mystery, and the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.
Despite numbers picking up early this year – the first time it’s happened in years – the airline will wrap up 2016 on a loss, although significantly smaller than initially projected. It remains cautious in its outlook for 2017.
Bellew said that while focus in the first half of 2016 was on reducing costs and improving the customer experience, the airline has pushed for revenue generation through more aggressive sales and marketing initiatives since July.
“We have delivered a stronger second half of 2016 but a weak Malaysian ringgit, Brexit uncertainty, and overcapacity in the Malaysian market will be the dominant features of 2017,” the airline said.