by AFIQ AZIZ/ pic by TMR FILE
AIRASIA Group Bhd is not worried about the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia’s (CAAM) downgrade from Category 1 to Category 2 by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which prevents Malaysian carriers from establishing new routes to the US.
AirAsia founder and group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes (picture) said there are “many ways of expanding to America” for the frill-free carrier, despite the FAA decision.
AirAsia’s long-haul unit AirAsia X Bhd which flies from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Honolulu, Hawaii (HNL) via Osaka, Japan, would remain operational.
“Whatever is in operations is in operations. We have many ways of getting to America; we have AirAsia Japan. So do not worry, there are plenty of options to expand into America,” he told the media after announcing the group’s partnership with Kiwi.com in Sepang, Selangor last Friday.
Through the partnership with the Czech-based travel technology firm, Airasia.com is expected to feature flights on other airlines on its website.
Last Monday, FAA downgraded CAAM, previously known as the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) to Category 2, saying Malaysia failed to meet 33 areas of the FAA audit scores, from about 300 queries.
CAAM rebutted the decision, claiming that there were only 22 outstanding issues found, leaving 11 issues which it deemed ambiguous and undetermined by the FAA.
CAAM pledged that the 33 findings would be rectified within 24 months, allowing Malaysia to regain its Category 1 status. Malaysia secured the position back in 2003.
As of now, Malaysia cannot make any additional route to the US and joins Bangladesh, Ghana, Costa Rica, Thailand and Curacao in the Category 2 list.
FAA gave the rating, under the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme, as CAAM was unable to meet the safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Analysts have been pessimistic that Malaysia could secure the Category 1 in time, while Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had asked FAA to entail the details about the downgrade.
Fernandes, who has been outspoken over the country’s aviation regulations issue said this would be the best time for Malaysia to “reset” the local aviation sector, while restoring its Category 1 ranking.
“I am very positive. When I started 18 years ago, DCA was one of the most respected civil aviation authorities in the world. I credit the DCA with AirAsia’s success. We’ll be back stronger,” he added.
Meanwhile, Fernandes said the profit-sharing AirAsia – Kiwi.com deal would allow website users to book travels on over 100 airlines to destinations currently not served by the airline like Europe, New Zealand, the Middle East, and the US.
Fernandes said this was part of the company’s move in separating Airasia.com from the group’s main business – airline operation.
This allows the online booking platform to further expand its services to cater to a variety of segments, including a travel and lifestyle platform which will also list its competitors’ products.
“You’ve got to separate AirAsia airline and AirAsia.com as they are two different companies and products. AirAsia airline and AirAsia X will continue to do what they have been doing.
“AirAsia.com will fly anywhere; that’s our relationship with Kiwi and we will develop our own relationship with airlines that like us and want to work with us,” Fernandes said.
The campaign started with a promotional all-in return fare to Madrid from Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta and Sydney from RM99.