With the initial plan to sell its six Airbus A380 aircrafts failed, Malaysia Airlines is now turning on possibly “wet leasing” the superjumbos to religious travel organizations for Haj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The Malaysian-based carrier revealed in February this year it had delayed plans to sell several of its A380 jets. As things stand, MAB will keep all six superjumbos at least until 2018.
MAB started discussing this with potential customers around 10 weeks ago and the airline CEO, Peter Bellew said he is confident the agreement will be reached before the end of December. Bellew also said the planes will be used for eight month per year.
According to Bellew, Airbus is open to this possibility and the two sides are now in talks about reconfiguring the planes to fit 700 people for the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages. Normally, Airbus A380 has 544 seats, separated in three different classes.
Bellew pointed out the deal should more than cover the cost of the plane and said:
I believe it will happen.
Haj is a once-in-a-year pilgrimage to Mecca, with about a million pilgrims flying there by plane. On the other hand, Umrah pilgrimage can be taken at any time of the year.
The French plane manufacturer didn’t comment on the possible deal with Malaysia Airlines, saying only that it is in daily contact with its customers, but would prefer any details of their discussions to stay confidential.
Airbus Cuts A380 Production
The deal could also benefit Airbus, as the plane manufacturer is forced to cut down on the production of the 4-engine jet due to decreased demand from worldwide airlines. Namely, many carriers are turning to 2-engine planes, which are cheaper and easier to fill.
Some airlines, such as Qantas and Air France, have already cancelled their A380 deliveries and Singapore Airlines also decided not to renew the lease on the A380 it had in service since 2007.
As the sale new A380s is becoming increasingly more difficult, Airbus is attempting to launch a market for used A380s.
Should MAB succeeds in leasing the planes, this would significantly help its plan to cut its costs and return to profitability in two years.