Amal A380s: a possible model for the Umrah market

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While most of the world is shedding a tear for the demise of the A380, Malaysia Airlines is pushing forward with its aspirations to grow its share of the religious pilgrimage market by pursuing expansion at Amal - using the A380. Amal is a new unit and sub-brand that aims to capture a 60% share of Malaysia's Umrah market and a 10% share of Indonesia's much larger Umrah market within the next three years.

Amal has already taken over the management and sales of A380 charters from Malaysia to Jeddah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia. In Apr-2019 Amal plans to take over scheduled flights to Jeddah and Madinah that are now under the Malaysia Airlines brand using A330s. The Madinah scheduled flights will be upgauged to 486-seat A380-900s, whereas the Jeddah scheduled flights will continue to be operated - at least for the time being - with 290-seat A330-300s.

Amal is targeting the massive Indonesia-Saudi Arabia pilgrimage market by offering connections via Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines already offers one-stop connections to Saudi Arabia from four Indonesian destinations and is planning to add another three or four Indonesian destinations in 2Q2019, operating scheduled flights with 737-800s on which the passenger complement will consist almost entirely of passengers connecting to Amal's Jeddah and Madinah flights.

Amal has long term ambitions to expand in other Asian markets, potentially with A380 flights originating in other countries. Umrah is a huge and fast growing market that is potentially suitable for some of the A380s that will need new homes next decade as several airlines start to phase the type out.

However, it will be challenging for Amal to operate outside Malaysia due to regulatory restrictions and the need to overcome airport infrastructure challenges that preclude A380 operations in several key Umrah markets.

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