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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
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.