Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) is looking to use its existing Airbus A380 fleet for charter services to help boost revenue.

Speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on charter services with major Malaysian tour operators, MAB CCO Paul Simmons said there is “strong demand” for more charter capacity on the China-Malaysia route to Sabah. He added there is also good potential for religious travel charters to Middle East destinations.

The carrier said it has opted to maintain its six A380s within the existing fleet, despite previous reports it was looking to dispose of the aircraft to third-party carriers.

MAB CEO Christoph Mueller recently said the aircraft will now be disposed of by mid-2018.

Simmons said the carrier already has 53 charter flights scheduled over the seven months from November 2016 to July 2017, offering 24,150 seats on religious routes including to Medina and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

“The great thing about using an A380 for chartered business is that our cost per seat is very effective [and] provides 500 seats that will be fully taken up,” Simmons said.

One of the tour operators that signed the MOU—Andalusia Travel & Tours—said the availability of A380s for charter “was crucial considering the growing number of Umrah [religious] pilgrims year-on-year.

Simmons said the addition of new A380 charter flights would see MAB “off to a good start” in improving its business prospects.

“We are not projected to make a profit until 2018 but … the charter business should help improve our company's financial performance,” he said.