In an interview he gave to Malaysian media this Monday (24th July), Peter Bellew, CEO of Malaysia Airlines, the carrier is trying to get investors for its new charter flights for haj pilgrims. The national airline has already held talks with potential investors in Asia and the Middle East.
This will be a separate venture for the main airline and Mr. Bellew expects the service will be fully operational in 2018. The carrier plans to use Airbus A380 superjumbo planes on this service to carry Muslim passengers to the haj pilgrimage. This will give it something to do with the otherwise unprofitable superjumbo.
We think there is a great sustainable business which would be profitable and put the A380s to good use. It is not just specifically money that we are looking. We are looking for somebody who can bring something to the business.
According to Bellew, the planes that will be used for the haj pilgrimage will be able to carry up to 700 passengers in one class.
The CEO also added that the airline is facing extra costs from the weakened Malaysian currency, ringgit. In the last quarter of 2016 alone, the ringgit dropped 7.8 percent when compared to the US dollar and has reached its lowest since 1998. Right now, the ringgit is trading at 4.28 to the dollar. When MAB started its turnaround plan in 2014, the ringgit was trading for $3.2.
Despite this, Bellew expect the airline will be return to red sometime in the second half of next year. To that end, Malaysia Airlines is eyeing different international markets, such as China, India and Japan and plans to add more services to these destinations in the next couple of years.
Of course, to be able to do that, and to be able to serve the busy routes across Asia that it already flies, MAB will require six more planes in 2018 and the same number in the year after. However, as Mr. Bellew said, the company is not in a hurry and is at the moment considering its options for leasing and purchases to get a “good price” for the new planes.