M’sia wants reasons behind downgrade by FAA

FAA cuts Malaysia to a Category 2 nation on Monday, outlawing the country’s carriers from setting up new flights to the US

pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

PRIME Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wants the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide details regarding the downgrade of the country’s air safety rating from Category 1 to Category 2.

“We want to know (the reasons behind) the downgrade so we can improve. If they say (we) are inefficient, we have managed to turn the Kuala Lumpur International Airport into one of the largest airports in the world while Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd was given the responsibility to manage Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Turkey.

“We have also received invitations from other countries to manage their airports,” he said, adding that Malaysian pilots were easily accepted to work in other countries’ carriers, like Indonesia and China.

Dr Mahathir spoke to reporters after having breakfast with Tanjung Piai non-governmental organisations yesterday.

Previously, he said the government would take necessary actions to rectify any weaknesses in the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM).

Meanwhile, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik (picture) said Malaysia’s tourist arrival is not expected to be significantly impacted following the downgrade.

The country is already targeting 30 million foreign visitors during the Visit Malaysia 2020 (VM2020) and the visitors are largely from countries within the region.

“The ministry admits that the downgrade may have some indirect consequences to tourist arrivals. However, our checks with various airlines indicate that many are unaffected unless there is a code-sharing arrangement with the US carriers like Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB).

“About 90% of foreign visitors are from Asia. The ministry, nevertheless, will monitor the situation and report back on ways to deal with the downgrade,” he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Muhammad Bakhtiar was responding to a supplementary question by Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina (Barisan Nasional-Kepala Batas) who inquired on the impact of the rating setback on the tourism sector. The former deputy foreign minister highlighted that a review of the downgrade would take at least a year, while a reinstatement to a Category 1 nation could take two years.

FAA cuts Malaysia to a Category 2 nation on Monday, outlawing the country’s carriers from setting up new flights to the US. It cited weaknesses by the nation’s civil aviation authority in areas ranging from technical expertise to record keeping.

Malaysia joins Bangladesh and Thailand in the second-tier category. Flag carrier MAB in a statement on Tuesday said some codeshare agreements with partner airlines on routes to and from the US could be affected. The only local airline serving a US destination from Malaysia is AirAsia X Bhd.

CAAM said it hoped to restore a Category 1 rating within 12 months. To do this, it will need to address 33 weaknesses found by the FAA, including those related to the technical certification of officers, regulatory gaps and CAAM’s structural issues.

CAAM board member Afzal Abdul Rahim said the regulator would propose amending relevant laws to meet FAA’s requirements.

The PM’s communications advisor Datuk Abdul Kadir Jasin in a recent Facebook post called for both CAAM and the Ministry of Transport to be held responsible for the downgrade, saying it was a shameful development running up to next year’s VM2020 campaign.

CAAM CEO Ahmad Nizar Zolfakar has resigned but the aviation authority denied any link between the step-down and FAA’s decision.