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MAS A380 pilgrimage unit set for 2019 launch

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) could announce the name and brand of its Airbus A380 subsidiary by April.

Speaking to FlightGlobal, chief executive Peter Bellew says that the carrier “is finalising the cost of re-configuring the aircraft with Airbus”, which will conduct the seat replacement procedures.

The aircraft will have around 700 all-economy seats, an increase of 204 from its current 496. The subsidiary will focus on religious pilgrimage flights.

Bellew adds that senior staff, except the unit’s chief executive, have already been hired and that MAS is working towards a new name and separate branding for the A380 carrier.

“We expect to announce them by end of April."

Bellew says MAS will cease operating the A380 to end its operations with MAS by "the third quarter of 2018." Subsequently, they will undergo seat refurbishment work.

"The first umrah flights are expected to commence by January 2019," he adds.

The timeline represents a change from MAS's previously stated plans, which indicated the new unit would be operational by the spring of 2018.

MAS has found it challenging to find a secondary market for its six A380s.

The move to set up the new unit follows a previous, apparently unsuccessful, effort by the carrier to sell or lease the aircraft.

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