* New airline will use Malaysia Airlines' six A380s
* New airline to service Haj, Umrah routes
* Group sees loss for 2016, aims to return to profits in
(Adds comment, other details)
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 Malaysia Airlines Berhad on
Wednesday said it was finalising plans to form a new airline
that will put to use its six A380 superjumbos to fly passengers
undertaking the Muslim pilgrimages of Haj and Umrah.
The carrier said it was already transporting Muslim pilgrims
on charter flights to Saudi Arabia and was "in a good position
to cater to increased passenger demand on this route".
The Haj is a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and takes
place once a year, with more than one million Muslims travelling
by air, while the Umrah pilgrimage, also to Mecca, can be
undertaken at any time of the year.
Malaysia Airlines had previously said that it was in talks
to lease its aircraft for the pilgrimages.
Malaysia's national airline has been trying to find use for
its A380s - the world's biggest jetliners - after it failed to
sell them. It has said in the past that the Airbus jets
do not make economic sense at a time when it is cutting costs.
The Kuala Lumpur-based carrier has been battling to turn
around its business since a disastrous 2014, which saw the
disappearance of flight MH370, aviation's greatest mystery, and
the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.
The group expects to record a loss for the year 2016,
although significantly smaller than initially expected. It
remains cautious in its outlook for 2017.
"We have delivered a stronger second half of 2016 but a weak
Malaysian ringgit, Brexit uncertainty and overcapacity in the
Malaysian market will be the dominant features of 2017," the
Its third-quarter passenger load factor improved to 79
percent from 74 percent a year ago.
Group Chief Executive Officer Peter Bellew said while focus
in the first half of 2016 was on reducing costs and improving
the customer experience, the airline has pushed for revenue
generation through more aggressive sales and marketing
initiatives since July.
The airline recently said it would launch eight new routes
to destinations in China, and add 11 new routes between the
countries in early 2017. It aims to return to profitability in
2018 and list the year after.
(Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar)