Eaglexpress clinches RM35m charter deal

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 30, 2012): Newly-launched Eaglexpress Air Charter Sdn Bhd has signed its first hajj and umrah charter agreement worth RM35 million with Noz Usaha Sdn Bhd.

Under the deal, Eaglexpress will charter 31 flights, carrying a combined 15,000 passengers, from KL International Airport in Sepang to Jeddah, with 452 passengers on board each flight.

The RM35 million contract is for a period of six months, from the date of its first flight on March 2, with a lease rental of RM58,900 per hour and guaranteed 19 block hours per flight.

Eaglexpress executive chairman Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat said Noz Usaha initially requested to charter over 100,000 passengers from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, but Eaglexpress' current capacity is only 15,000.

"We have been approached by many parties and have signed many memoranda of understanding (MOUs) for hajj and umrah charters but this is our first agreement," he told reporters at the signing ceremony last Friday.

So far, it has secured eight MoUs from parties in south Thailand and Indonesia.

Eaglexpress president and CEO Captain Azlan Zainal Abidin said the charter industry has potential in Malaysia and Asia, and can be a success depending on the implementation.

"Like all airlines, fuel price is a critical factor for us. We're also monitoring that. Umrah and hajj is a perpetual business; even if there are global problems, people still go," he said.

He added that it aims to charter flights to Jeddah for Muslims from Thailand, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and later on, Europe.

Besides hajj and umrah charters, Eaglexpress will also provide holiday and business charters, as well as for air cargo.

"Air cargo charter is a bit damp currently, but we expect it to go up after Chinese New Year…the income from there is good," Azlan said, adding that it may operate its own air cargo flights at a later stage.

During its launch on Jan 16, the charter airline had announced its purchase of three Boeing 747-400s from Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd (PMB) for some US$60 million (RM188.82 million).

Azlan said it would invest almost US$300 million in eight aircraft in its first year of operations, comprising the three newly-acquired 747-400s, three 747-400 freighters and two 737-400s/800s, with plans to expand its fleet to 20 aircraft in three to five years.

On its planned purchases, Azlan said it is still in negotiations with various sellers including PMB, GE Capital Aviation Services, leasing companies from Singapore and Europe, and banks.