Malaysia Airlines is reportedly talking with Airbus about converting its fleet of A380 superjumbos to carry 700 passengers on dedicated flights for Muslims visiting Mecca.
The carrier’s plans would see capacity on the double decker aircraft increased from the current 550, and the installation of baths to allow pilgrims to prepare themselves for visiting the Saudi Arabian holy city, along with prayer facilities.
The flights would run year-round, not just during Hajj in final month of the Islamic calendar, with the airline expecting strong demand from those making the minor pilgrimage outside this period.
Malaysia Airlines has six A380s but believes the market is strong enough to sustain up to 20 of the aircraft taking pilgrims from around the world to Mecca.
It is thought that Saudi Arabia is set to ban aircraft older than 20 years flying within its airspace, opening up opportunities for the A380.
The carrier is in talks with competitors on how they could work together to provide the service, along with travel groups. A formal announcement on the scheme is expected before the end of the year.
The plans for the A380s are being considered as of a radical transformation of the airline led by former Ryanair executive Peter Bellew, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The airline is cutting a third of its 18,000 workforce and is slashing costs with the target of returning to profitability next year, with Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund having taking full ownership of the carrier.
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