| DUBAI, April 27
DUBAI, April 27 Malaysia Airlines is close to
launching a new airline that will use its six Airbus
A380s to fly passengers undertaking the Muslim pilgrimages of
Haj and Umrah, Chief Executive Peter Bellew said.
Bellew told Reuters that all the key personnel, apart from a
chief executive, have been appointed and are likely to be
announced in the next two weeks as Malaysia Airlines finalises
plans set in motion last year.
The A380s will be fitted with more than 700 seats in an
all-economy layout but can be reconfigured in "four to five
days" to 635 seats across economy and business class, Bellew
"We're hoping to come to a good agreement with Airbus on the
reconfiguration cost on the aircraft," he said. "I'll still need
some more help from them on that."
Malaysia's national airline has been trying to find a use
for its A380s -- the world's biggest passenger jet -- since it
failed to sell them. It previously said the A380s do not make
economic sense at a time when it is cutting costs.
The new charter airline will have to operate Haj and Umrah
flights around 180 days to 190 days a year to break even, but
Bellew said he expects to attract external investors and that
the charter carrier will also operate non-pilgrimage flights.
Asked if it could be used to carry tour groups from a
country such as China to Disneyland, Bellew said: "I think
you've hit the nail on the head there."
He identified Barcelona, Rome and London Stansted as other
Malaysia Airlines is still recovering from two tragedies in
2014, when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery
and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
It is aiming for a return to profitability by 2018 and a
stock market listing in March the following year.
The company is scheduled to receive two A350s this year and
four more in 2018. It is also considering orders for 30-35
Airbus A330neos or Boeing 787-9s.
Airbus could delay delivery of Malaysia Airlines' first
A350s until the end of 2017, Bellew said, as the planemaker
struggles to meet delivery targets after problems with
An Airbus spokesman said the manufacturer does not discuss
(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Kuala Lumpur;
Editing by David Goodman)