Malaysia could have three new airlines next year. Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, says three companies have applied for air operator certificates (AOC): two have asked for licenses as scheduled operators, and one is requesting a permit for charter operations.

Azharuddin, speaking to Aviation Week on the sidelines of the LIMA Airshow in Langkawi, Malaysia, declines to name the potential startups.

It is unclear, however, if these would-be carriers will get the regulatory go-ahead. In Malaysia, the issuance of an AOC for scheduled operations is a cabinet decision, says Azharuddin.

There are currently seven scheduled AOC holders in Malaysia: AirAsia, AirAsia X, Berjaya Air, Malaysia Airlines, Transmile and MAS subsidiaries Firefly and MASwings. All of these, with the exception of turboprop operator Berjaya Air and cargo operator Transmile, are linked to either AirAsia or MAS.

One of the three that aims to start next year could be Caterham Jet, a new business class-only airline that AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes wants to launch with Bombardier CRJ200s. Azharuddin declined comment on Caterham Jet, saying it is up to Malaysia’s cabinet to decide.

Another potential player could be RedQ, a new business-class airline that Qantas wants to base either in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Azharuddin says RedQ has yet to apply for an AOC and, once again, the would-be carrier’s prospects for approval depend on winning over Malaysia’s cabinet. But he says the civil aviation department welcomes investment in Malaysia from Qantas. “We have a very good relationship with the Australian regulatory authorities,” he adds.

Compared to its neighbors, Indonesia and Thailand, Malaysia has issued very few AOCs for scheduled operations. Azharuddin says there are several reasons for this policy. One is control, says Azharuddin, referring to how the government wants to maintain control over the industry. The government wants to avoid over-capacity in the market, and it wants to protect safety and ensure the financial viability of airlines that are operating, he says.