FAA Downgrades Malaysia Safety Rating

Filed Under: Malaysia

The US Federal Aviation Administration has just downgraded Malaysia’s aviation safety rating, from a Category 1 to a Category 2.

How FAA Safety Ratings Work

With the International Convention of Civil Aviation, every country is responsible for the oversight of their own air carriers. Of course once in a while there also need to be audits to ensure that countries are doing their jobs in that regard.

The FAA conducts the International Aviation Safety Assessment Program (IASA). The assessment is intended to determine if the relevant civil aviation authority provides oversight to carriers that are in line with international standards.

FAA Category 1 Vs. Category 2 Ratings

If a civil aviation authority meets standards, the FAA gives that authority a Category 1 rating. This means air carriers from that country:

  • Can initiate or continue service to the United States in a normal manner
  • Can take part in reciprocal codeshare agreements with US carriers

If a civil aviation authority doesn’t meet standards, the FAA gives that authority a Category 2 rating. This means air carriers from that country:

  • Cannot initiate new service to the United States
  • Are restricted to current levels of any existing service to the US while corrective actions are underway
  • Can’t codeshare with US air carriers
  • If the airline flies to the US, they’ll be subjected to additional inspections

Should You Be Worried About Flying Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, etc.?

With Malaysia going from a Category 1 to Category 2 safety rating, should you be worried about flying with their airlines? I would say no.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t suggest that Malaysia’s airlines as such are unsafe. Rather it suggests that there’s not proper oversight of the airlines by the government.

While this is a standard process, there is a slight bit of irony in the FAA criticizing other aviation authorities for lack of oversight, given our 737 MAX fiasco.

Malaysia is now a Category 2 country with the FAA

Are There Any Real Implications To This?

So, what are the real life implications to this?

  • We’ll see if oneworld cares, though it’s interesting to note that Malaysia Airlines is now the first oneworld airline from a Category 2 country
  • American Airlines codeshares with Malaysia Airlines, so it sounds like their codeshare service would have to be cut
  • Air Asia X flies to Honolulu via Osaka, so I believe they will be subjected to additional inspections (even though they operate via a third country)
  • There’s talk of Air Asia X wanting to add more flights to the US, so that would have to be put on hold

American will have to stop codesharing with Malaysia Airlines

Bottom Line

Malaysia is now an FAA Category 2 country, joining Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Curacao, Ghana, and Thailand, all of which also have Category 2 ratings. There aren’t huge implications to this, though I imagine the country is going to try to do the work necessary to get back to a Category 1 rating.

We’ve seen several countries get to Category 1 status in recent years, like Indonesia and Vietnam.

  1. If AA has to cut ties with MH, will existing tickets be honored or will I have to rebook? I currently have a ticket booked on AA from NYC to KUL through LAX and NRT with the last leg on Malaysian for May of next year. I suppose though they can just rebook me on a JAL flight though.

  2. @JB,

    I believe the article is referring to codeshare flights. To my knowledge I believe AA only puts it’s code on the MH KUL-LHR flights. The article suggests AA would have to remove their code from these flights.

    A ticket with an MH coded flight would not I believe be impacted.

  3. As you mention I take everything the FAA says with a pinch of salt. They are simply corrupt and inept and would not trust a word they say. It’s okay for the FAA to approve a death trap plane after all

  4. Stupid decision! I feel less safe flying around the U.S. with its crumbling airports than Malaysia! And now those that complain about “government interference” have nothing to say. Anyway, given their recent track record, we should downgrade the corrupt FAA instead!

  5. Having lived in Malaysia for 4 years, I would have to believe there are some security issues involved here in the rating – not just maintenance items.

  6. This is the same FAA that certified the 737MAX and then waited until after other global regulators had banned the plane before it acted?

    People in glass houses…

  7. I trust the EASA much more than the FAA. If they still allow airlines from Malaysia to fly into Europe with no restrictions, then I’m not worried about the safety of those airlines.

  8. @ Dennis,

    That’s a pretty stupid and ignorant statement. How nice the airports are in the USA or Malaysia has virtually nothing to do with the safety of the air transportation system. The USA deserves a lot of crap for not investing more in infrastructure in general, but it’s air transportation system is top notch. Malaysia and other developing countries are definitely still figuring out a lot when it comes to mass air transportation. Just look the quality of pilots…

    That being said I have and will continue to fly just about any airline in Asia, or the world in general. Air travel is much safer than driving a car!

  9. I agree re the security issue. Rumour has it they are also impacted by 1MDB saga. I have flown them many times as they are as a cost effective option in the region and will continue to fly them. That being the case my list of “Do not fly carriers” is Australiasian – Lion Air being at the top due to it’s really bad safety issues (many prior to the 787 tragedy).

  10. @Megan

    Sadly Lion Air doesn’t fly any 787 nor did any 787 ever built suffer any tragedy of hull loss or fatalities.

    Did you get denied for the Apple Card recently??? Maybe there is a correlation between facts and credits.


    I agree, FAA really lost all credibility with 737MAX. But it isn’t EASA that I trust more now, it is CAAC that got all my respect from this incident and really possible of them leading the industry in the future. That is how regulators should act.

  11. Federal Association of Assho**s certified an unsafe airplane and people died as a direct result.
    The FAA is only a couple of steps removed from SkyTrax when it comes to credibility.

  12. @Eskimo

    I would be wary of running headlong into accepting CAAC’s judgments as the gold standard. Or really of accepting any single national entity’s judgments as unambigiously correct.

    And CAAC has a strong political incentive to ground the 737 and hit Boeing’s reputation as hard as possible: China is about to enter the A320/737 market with the Comac C919. It is rather difficult to accuse the FAA of running political interference on Boeing’s behalf while not realizing that the Chinese government has its own horse in this race.

    I have no doubt CAAC acted in what it felt was the best interests of safety, but China’s institutions are if anything more susceptible to domestic political interference, not less.

  13. @Eskumo – I think you were rather harsh on @Meghan, she had a typo between 787 and 737.

    Unless you have lived in that part of the world you have no idea about security there which is assuredly part if the issue here also considering the lost flight to Bejing. The FAA may be tainted over the MAX but you better depend on their security assessments if you are flying in certain parts of the world.

  14. There’s likely to be a political aspect to this, motivated my Malaysia’s consistent anti-American “deep state” stance which includes a Malaysian tribunal finding Bush and Blair guilty of war crimes back in 2016. It’s also the reason Malaysia Airlines was chosen as the victim for the MH17 shoot down event staged over Ukraine with the dual purpose of implicating the Russians. Real Politik is a dirty business 😉

  15. Safety is not a major issue flying Malaysian. But reliability/punctuality is: I simply can’t take a trick flying with them….interminable delays, missed connections ( and ludicrously inadequate ‘fixes’ in those cases), The onboard product is adequate; administration and ground services are pathetic. I never seem to have an issue with Air Asia ( they don’t pretend to be something they’re not, plus they always seem to be on time, within reason).

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