Malaysian Airlines, battered by a series of unfortunate events in the recent years, saw a boost in its image with business-class bookings surging with all time highs.

Malaysia Airlines’ said its passenger load factor rose to 81% in the fourth quarter from 70% compared to last year.

But it is yet to be profitable, saying it lost half as much money in 2016 than projected and that traffic grew 5% from the third quarter.

The company has changed its business model, shrinking in size since its bailout exercise started two years ago after the disasters of Flight MH370 which is still missing, and Flight 17 which was shot down over Ukraine in 2014.

Its business-class bookings surged in the last six month of 2016, and as part of the company’s goal to return to annual profit by 2018, something it has not seen for a long time now, it plans to hand over its A380’s to new airline.

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All Hajj flights?

While no indication were given on which new airline it will be, there are talks that Malaysian Airlines may start a new company that will fly Muslim pilgrims only.

Alternatively, it might agree to lease the A380’s to an existing airline, which is involved in the business.

There is one such company in Malaysia, and it is called the Eaglexpress.

In January, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) the body that supports aviation with global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency and sustainability recently renewed the IOSA Operators Certification for Eaglexpress.

This is the second time that the Haj and Umrah charter flight operator has been confirmed this status.

“Eaglexpress remains proud to be one of only a few airlines that operate out of Malaysia to have reached this level of safety and performance,” said a press release from the company, issued in January.

It also said Eaglexpress is now moving from being a provider of ‘wet lease’ aircraft to becoming the leading private provider of scheduled charter flights for Hajj and Umrah.

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“Ultimately we want to make Hajj and Umrah be more accessible to the global Muslim population.

“Safety is the primary concern of pilgrims and their families that is why this certification is critical, the well-being of pilgrims is a responsibility that we take seriously,” the release said.

Eaglexpress (9A) which is based in KL International Airport currently operates four Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

When asked whether Eaglexpress might take over the A380’s, a source said the company is surely open to the possibility for that to happen.