There are other ways to expand air services to US, says Tony Fernandes

AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes says the downgrade may be a great opportunity for Malaysia to do better in the industry and come out stronger.

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes remains optimistic that AirAsia can still expand to the US following a downgrade in air safety rating by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Speaking at a press conference at the AirAsia headquarters this evening, he said even though Malaysia Airlines could no longer expand via new routes to the US, there are “many ways of expanding to America”.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Malaysia to a Category 2 nation.

Malaysia now cannot open new routes to the US or code-share with American carriers, but this will not disrupt existing operations. This also means Malaysian aircraft will be more closely monitored at US airports.

Only AirAsia X flies to the US at present.

Fernandes added that the downgrade may be a great opportunity for Malaysia to do better in the industry and come out stronger.

“We should not be negative. We should be creative and put our differences aside and work hard and be the best.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Malaysia will come out stronger from this, given the right people (are given) the chance to be the best,” he said citing Indonesia’s success of coming out of the Category 2 rating in 2016, after being downgraded in April 2007.

The FAA assessment is based on International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards and focuses on the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM), and not individual airlines.

It cited deficiencies by the nation’s civil aviation authority in areas ranging from technical expertise to record keeping.

Recently, CAAM said they were confident of addressing the issues in 12 months and about obtaining Category 1 status again.

It also said some of the findings by the FAA were “ambiguous”.

It added that it is mulling an overhaul of its industry service charges to meet increasing costs.

Board member Razali Mahfar was reported as saying that some of CAAM’s issues, which had contributed to Malaysia being downgraded to Category 2, were due to a lack of qualified technical personnel, talents and technology.

Fernandes said CAAM — previously known as the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) — was one of the best in the world.

He added that he supported CAAM possibly increasing charges, but only if it means higher quality services.

“(Only) if it means that we save fuel in the air by more efficient processes and if we use that money to digitise and cut costs.”