On 11 November 2019 the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Malaysia's International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) air safety rating from Category 1 to Category 2. This marks the first time that Malaysia's air safety rating has been lowered since it was assigned Category 1 status in 2003.
The FAA's air safety rating is based on an assessment of a country's aviation oversight regime and civil aviation authority rather than the quality of its airlines or airports. The downgrade means that the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) does not meet the International Civil Aviation Authority's (ICAO's) safety oversight standards and is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping and/or inspection procedures.
CAAM was established in February 2018 to replace the former Department of Civil Aviation pursuant to an ICAO order which had instructed all Chicago Convention contracting states to set up an autonomous civil aviation authority to ensure the efficient management of civil aviation safety and security. CAAM is separate from Malaysia's other independent civil aviation regulator, the Malaysian Aviation Commission, which oversees only economic and commercial matters in the aviation industry.
The main effect of the air safety downgrade is that all Malaysian airlines are now restricted from adding new flights to the United States, although existing flights will be allowed to continue under heightened FAA surveillance and checks. The only flight to the United States currently operated by a Malaysian airline is AirAsia X Berhad's daily route from Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu (via Osaka).
The downgrade also means that reciprocal code-sharing arrangements between US and Malaysian airlines are now no longer permitted.
Countries that the FAA relegates to a Category 2 rating find it difficult to restore Category 1 status. For example, Thailand has been trying unsuccessfully to restore its Category 1 air safety rating since it was downgraded in 2015.
At present, the only other countries that the FAA assigned Category 2 status are Thailand, Bangladesh, Ghana, Costa Rica and Curacao.
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