Malaysia Airlines’ new dedicated carrier for its Haj and Umrah flights is expected to begin operations by the end of next year, announced recently MAS Chief Executive Officer, Peter Bellew. The future airline will take over Malaysia Airlines fleet of six Airbus A380.
The first of the aircraft to carry religious pilgrims to the Holy Land comprising both Malaysias and from around the globe should be available for the Umrah around by December 2018 and January 2019. “We will be able to take the six aircraft and actually customise them with extra areas for prayers, for people to wash, to literally have the space and enjoy the experience of travelling to Saudi Arabia as they go on their pilgrimage,” indicated MAS CEO.
The six Airbus A380, once the pride of MAS management and now a burden for the airline, following its restructuring, will be retrofitted for the Haj/Umrah packages. The first rconfigured aircraft should be given back to MAS at the end of 2018.
“We will keep cost down for people travelling to their pilgrimage because we will have a large aircraft with good economical number of seats,” he said. Currrently, the Airbus A380 has a capacity for 500 seats but in its new configuration for Haj, the aircraft will see their capacities go up to over 600, eventually 700 seats.
“And also for the authorities in Saudi Arabia, it will give a very much better use of the airport landing slots and the areas at the gates.
“So we will be able to manage a lot people to get to and from Malaysia or other parts of the world on the pilgrimage and keep the cost down,” indicated Peter Bellew.
“The interesting bit about it for Malaysia is that it would create about 600 to 700 new jobs for Malaysians to work on this new airline as we will need new pilots, cabin crew, engineers and create some spin-offs in the country,” he said.
When asked why there was a need for a dedicated airline for such flights, Bellew said: “From all over the world at the moment, a lot of the pilgrims on the Haj and Umrah flights are travelling on 15-, 20-year-old aircraft.
He said the Saudi authorities are much happier to see Malaysia Airlines coming in with very new A380 aircraft that can move a lot people in great comfort, at quite a reasonably low cost and make very good use of the facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Bellew stressed that Malaysia Airlines has already the experience as it operates the Airbus A380 to Saudi Arabia.