Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), the state-owned operator of most of Malaysian airports, is seeking to develop Kuala Lumpur Int'l into a pan-Asian hub for Hajj and Umrah flights to Saudi Arabia, New Straits Times has reported.

The airport operator has already piloted a pre-clearance for Saudi Arabian immigration in Kuala Lumpur last year and plans to develop the project into the next phase in 2018. While currently, the pre-clearance is available only to Malaysian nationals, eventually MAHB plans to open it up to other passengers, initially only in the Hajj season followed by the year-round Umrah pilgrimages.

The airport could become a hub for passengers travelling from Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, as well as from other regions in South East Asia.

MAHB is partnering with Malaysia Airlines (MH, Kuala Lumpur Int'l) which, for its part, is working on a new subsidiary dedicated to Hajj and Umrah charters operated with A380-800s reconfigured into an all-economy layout seating around 700 passengers. The new Malaysia Aviation Group unit is tentatively scheduled to launch operationally by the end of 2018.