Garuda Indonesia is investigating the use of new high-capacity widebody aircraft for charters to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj religious period, but only if it also can integrate the aircraft into its scheduled services.

“We are doing an evaluation to see whether it makes sense to get the Boeing 747-8 or Airbus A380,” Garuda president director, Emirsyah Satar, told Aviation week Nov. 8 on the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines annual general meeting. He added that it is unclear if the evaluation will result in Garuda going ahead and issuing a request for proposal.

There is no time-frame for a decision, said Satar, adding that it is merely an internal study at this stage. He says if Garuda orders the A380 or 747-8, the airline needs to be confident it can operate the aircraft on scheduled routes other times of the year, when there is no Hajj.

A source from the airline in October told Aviation Week that an alternative to new widebodies would be for Garuda to keep its Boeing 747-400s, which are being replaced by Boeing 777s, and use them for charter operations like the Hajj services. But Satar dismisses this idea, noting, “We know the 747-400 is very suitable for Hajj, but what are we going to do with the aircraft for the other nine months of the year?”

The Aviation Week Intelligence Network fleet database says Garuda owns two 747-400s.

Garuda conducted 295 Hajj flights over a three-month period last year, carrying 112,500 passengers from 10 Indonesian cities, says an airline spokesman. Garuda uses aircraft on short-term wet-leases to supplement its Hajj operations.

Satar says it is getting difficult to rely on wet-leased aircraft, because there is a shortage of these during the Hajj period. Nearly every operator of Hajj flights turns to wet-leases to boost capacity. Also, the Hajj period varies from year to year. Sometimes it falls in high-season, making it even harder to source such aircraft, says Satar.