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MAS to use A380s for pilgrimages, up seats to 700

Malaysia Airlines will transfer its six Airbus A380 aircraft to a subsidiary carrier focused on religious pilgrimage flights, and greatly boost total seating capacity.

Speaking to FlightGlobal, carrier chief executive Peter Bellew says the subsidiary airline will have a separate AOC with a sales office operational by December 2016 and flight operations to commence by the third-quarter of 2018.

As a start, the carrier will focus on mainly the seasonal Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage services.

Bellew adds that the aircraft will have around 700 all-economy seats, an increase of 200 from their current 496. The refurbishments will be carried out by Airbus “in a low-cost manner”, he adds.

Malaysia Airlines is confident of the new unit’s business prospects, and has been approached by third parties interested in investing in the venture.

"A substantial number of widebody aircraft, including other A380s and Boeing 747s will be needing C and D-checks by 2018 and further aircraft will come off-lease,” Bellew explains. “The new airline will be able to provide the much-needed capacity during that period of time”.

While the new airline’s fleet will consist of six A380s when launched, Malaysia Airlines is open to taking other types of aircraft and operating to other destinations should there be an appropriate opening.

“I have watched each of our first three A380s go through detailed C-checks in-house and the quality of construction of these aircraft is incredible. I believe they will still be flying around the world in 50 years' time like the Boeing 707’s. By 2022, our assessment shows that this type of operation can sustain 20 ultra-large aircraft."

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

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

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Malaysia Airline's six A380s are owned by Turus Pesawat, a special-purpose company owned by Malaysia's finance ministry, and the aircraft purchase was financed through Islamic bonds issued by the government.

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