Malaysia’s FAA Safety Rating Downgraded

Malaysia has had its air safety rating downgraded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a category 2. The FAA released a statement on Monday confirming the change. This will prevent the country’s airlines from operating new routes to the US and will impose additional inspections on Malaysian airlines at US airports.

Malaysian Airlines Aircraft on runway
Malaysia has had its FAA safety rating downgraded to a category 2. Photo: Riik@mctr via Flickr

In a press statement, the FAA confirmed that Malaysia has lost its category 1 safety rating and will no longer be able to open new routes or increase existing services to the United States. Malaysian airlines will also be subjected to additional checks at US airports.

The statement from the FAA noted that the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia “is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, and/or inspection procedures”. The statement does not clarify in which area Malaysia has failed the FAA criteria.

What is the FAA safety rating?

According to the International Convention of Civil Aviation, every country is responsible for performing checks and regulating its own airlines. However, sometimes there is a need for extra checks to ensure each country is consistently and effectively managing its carriers. The FAA conducts an International Aviation Safety Assessment Program to ensure international standards are upheld.

A category 1 rating means the FAA is confident that any airlines from the country in question are being properly governed by the nation’s government. Therefore, the airlines may continue current service to the US, initiate new routes and partake in reciprocal codesharing agreements with US airlines.

Air Asia Malaysia
All Malaysian airlines will now have to undergo extra inspections at US airports. Photo: AirAsia

A category 2 rating does not mean that airlines from the country are unsafe or dangerous. In its statement today the FAA clarified that this is “an assessment of CAAM [Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia] and not any individual airline operating inside or outside of Malaysia.”

However, it does suggest that the FAA does not believe the Malaysian government is able to manage and govern its airlines in a way that ensures a standard level of safety. Malaysian airlines will no longer be able to open new routes or expanding existing ones and codesharing agreements will cease. Malaysian airlines will also have to undergo additional checks at US airports.

Who does this affect?

Currently, the only Malaysian airline to fly to the United States is AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu, Hawaii. This flight will now be subjected to further inspections. Recent talk of Air Asia looking to expand its services to add more flights to the US will now have to wait until the category 1 rating is restored.

American Airlines codeshares with Malaysian Airlines, and will now have to cease this cooperation according to FAA regulations.

Air Asia X aircraft at terminal
Air Asia X was hoping to open a new route to California. Photo: 9M-XXZ via Flickr

Category 2 countries

Malaysia is not alone in having a category 2 rating; neighboring Thailand is also a category 2 as are Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Curacao and Ghana. While the category 2 rating is certainly a hindrance to Malaysian airlines opening new routes to the US, it is not a permanent death sentence.

Both Indonesia and Vietnam have gained category 1 status in recent years. Malaysia has been a category 1 country since 2003 so will no doubt be keen to ensure it returns to the category 1 rating.

Let us know what you think about Malaysia losing its category 1 status. Have you got concerns about the standard of safety in Malaysian aviation? Let us know in the comments.