FAA Strips Malaysia Of Category 1 Safety Rating As ICAO Standards Aren’t Met During Inspection

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During a safety inspection of Malaysia’s aviation sector by the FAA in April of 2019 inspectors found several instances where standards were not met and in result Malaysia was just stripped of their category 1 status.

In result – apart from the reputational damage – Malaysian carriers can no longer apply for new routes to any U.S. destinations until the rating is being restored to the Cat 1 level.

Inspections by the FAA abroad are common as the agency ensured that individual countries comply with ICAO standards related to aviation security, structures and operations.

Reuters reported last night that Malaysia has now lost it’s Cat 1 rating for the time being.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday downgraded Malaysia’s air safety rating, restricting the country’s airlines from adding new flights to the United States.

The FAA’s safety rating is based on Malaysia’s aviation oversight regime and is an assessment of the country’s civil aviation authority. Reuters reported the downgrade earlier on Monday, citing sources. The downgrade does not affect existing flights.

At present, the only Malaysian airline route to the United States is AirAsia X Bhd services from Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu via Osaka, Japan.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) said in a statement it regretted the decision that stemmed from an April 2019 FAA review but asked the U.S. agency to reassesses its operations within the next year.

The FAA said the rating means that CAAM is deficient in one or more areas, “such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, and/or inspection procedures.”

CAAM said “in carrying out its duties as an aviation regulator, some shortcomings exist. We wish to emphasize that the assessment only covered CAAM’s role as an aviation regulator.”

CAAM said “plans are already well underway to address the findings of the audit” with the goal of getting its Category One rating restored.

Even if countries aren’t impacted directly by these inspections and sanctions as there are no flights to/from the U.S. they still don’t like to lose their Cat 1 ICAO standard ratings as it often serves as a blueprint for other countries to adopt and potentially bar local carriers from new routes as well. In February of this year Thailand was downgraded as well (once again) after failing inspections.

Downgrades can occur for a multitude of reasons and in different areas that aren’t necessarily visible to the passenger. There could be something wrong with the security screening process, a lack of proper technical oversight or simply an inefficiency within the national regulating body such as corruption or lack of proper oversight.


At this moment the downgrade has very little effect on Malaysia. As the article notes the only flight operating under Malaysian flag is Air Asia X to Hawaii via Osaka and since this is an active route they will be allowed to continue to operate.

Malaysia Airlines stopped flying to Los Angeles many years ago (same as Thai Airways) and under the current conditions they would be unable to resume this route. Not that they’d want to given the financial position of the company and how much they have cut their international routes in recent years.

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