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Friday, 13 October 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Malaysia Airlines awaits approval for new haj carrier

Firm expects to launch service by year-end upon approval by Khazanah

TOULOUSE: Malaysia Airlines chief executive officer Peter Bellew expects to get approval from Khazanah Nasional Bhd to launch the new airline catering to haj pilgrims by year-end.

According to Bellew, Malaysia Airlines does not have enough seats to accommodate pilgrims from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and China for the rest of the year.

“Even though we have not started this new airline, it has already generated a huge amount of business for Malaysia Airlines.

“With the management team in place ... we expect to get the final approval from Khazanah by the end of this year and we will go ahead and launch the airline,” he said.

Bellew was speaking to a group of Malaysian journalists after viewing the A350 XWB pre-delivery aircraft at Airbus’ final assembly line here.

The aircraft, the latest member of the Airbus widebody family, offers long-range capability with lower operating cost compared with the A380s.

“It will be a super product for our London flights. Passengers on this aircraft will feel more refreshed when they arrive at their destination.

“The cost of operating the A350 on our London flights should be about 40% lower compared with the A380. This will give us a greater ability to be profitable on the longer routes,” he said.

The aircraft, which features the widest seats of any jetliner in its category, will be leased on a 12-year basis.

Bellew expects strong demand from Europe.

“Malaysia is quite cool at the moment in Europe,” he said, adding that there were enourmous tourism opportunities for Malaysia.

“Malaysia has everything that people in Europe are looking for. It has activities like walking, cycling, hiking, diving and adventure besides being accessible and low cost,” he said.

On another matter, Bellew said Malaysia Airlines’ listing has been slated for 2019.

However, he pointed out that listing may not be the only route for Malaysia Airlines as there is a trend for airlines to also look for trade partnerships with other carriers.

“A lot of carriers are taking a minority stake in other airlines. That’s the most prevalent trend happening globally,” he said.

Bellew stressed that Malaysia Airlines was not in discussions with other airlines for a possible trade partnership.

“We are not open to approaches by other carriers at the moment.”

On the airline’s load factor, Bellew said that at 80%, it was a “good place to be” for a full-service carrier.

Meanwhile, Airbus head of marketing for Asia and North America Joost van der Heijden said the company has received 858 orders for the A350, with 114 aircraft delivered.

He forecast long-term healthy growth in air passenger traffic globally, with Asia-Pacific being particularly strong. “We expect growth in the Asia-Pacific to triple in the coming 20 years, resulting in higher demand for passenger aircraft,” van der Heijden told a briefing on the A350 at Airbus headquarters here.