Malaysian Carriers Cleared To Launch New US Routes

Credit: Rob Finlayson

Malaysian carriers have welcomed the FAA’s decision to restore the country’s air safety ranking to Category 1—a decision that will allow them to expand flights to the US after a three-year hiatus.

The FAA downgraded Malaysia’s rating to Category 2 in November 2019, saying that the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) did not meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards.

The move meant that Malaysian airlines could continue existing service to the US but were prevented from opening new routes. The FAA also blocked reciprocal codesharing arrangements between US carriers and Malaysia-based airlines.

Malaysian transport minister Wee Ka Siong said the restoration to Category 1 was an “extremely proud achievement.” He added: “With an IASA [International Aviation Safety Assessment] Category 1 rating, a country’s air carriers can establish service to the US and carry the code of US carriers.”

AirAsia welcomed the upgrade, saying it would “open more opportunities for its future medium to long-haul network plans especially to the US, and other Asian countries including Japan and Korea as they will grant the relevant regulatory approvals based on FAA standards.”

AirAsia X is currently the only airline in the group that operates to the US directly, to Honolulu ({{HNL)) through Osaka (ITM) in Japan.

“After an industry reset following the pandemic, this announcement could not have come at a better time as travel demand picks up,” AirAsia Aviation Group CEO Bo Lingam said. “Category 1 safety rating will not only allow us to expand our future network plans but also stabilise the country’s aviation industry as a whole.”

More On Malaysia

Batik Air Malaysia CEO Mushafiz Bin Mustafa Bakri added that the reinstatement would enable the carrier to add services to new destinations and secure the necessary approvals more quickly.

“The return to Category 1 also means that the FAA will remove any safety concerns it may have had and will allow Malaysia to boost its tourism efforts as countries are now lifting travel restrictions,” he said.

Malaysia Airports MD Dato’ Iskandar Mizal Mahmood also explained that the Category 1 rating would strengthen Malaysia's position as an aviation hub and increase its network connectivity.

“The reinstatement will enhance global confidence in the quality of our air navigation services,” he said. “From the airport’s perspective, this will help in our marketing efforts to attract more airlines to operate in Malaysia thus increasing the country’s network connectivity and hub potential.”

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.