KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s first Islamic-compliant airline has been suspended for three months after it failed to adhere to aviation regulations, a senior official said Monday, as the government announced a safety audit of the carrier. “Rayani Air has been suspended for three months,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation, told AFP.
“They contravened civil aviation regulations,” he said, declining to elaborate. Muslim flight crew don the hijab while non-Muslim crew are forbidden from wearing revealing clothing on board the airline, which launched last December.
In-flight meals are completely halal and alcohol consumption is strictly banned. In recent weeks, however, the carrier had drawn increasing criticism from passengers and the government due to last-minute delays and cancellations.
Pilots of the carrier, which operates two Boeing 737-400s, had gone on strike, further damaging its image. Rayani Air said Monday in a Facebook post that it was working hard to “to solve our internal matters and get Rayani back on track”.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai tweeted on Saturday that the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) would conduct a safety audit before allowing the airline to fly again. “DCA will undertake a full administration and safety audit to determine if Rayani is ‘fit’ for AOC (aviation operating certificate) after serving provisional suspension,” he wrote.
Liow also expressed disappointment at Rayani’s conduct despite previous warnings over “poor procedures and service level”.
The suspension comes two years after Malaysia faced twin aviation disasters. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in a missile strike, killing all 298 people on board. Australia is leading the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the remote Indian Ocean, where the Beijing-bound plane is believed to have diverted when it disappeared on March 8, 2014 carrying 239 passengers and crew.