Malaysia shuts down first syariah-compliant airline Rayani Air, 6 months after launch

Rayani Air seen at Kota Kinabalu International Airport on April 9. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP/THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Rayani Air, Malaysia's first Islamic-compliant airline, has been shut down, regulators said on Monday (June 13), months after it was suspended from flying for breaching aviation regulations.

The carrier was launched last December, with Muslim flight crew wearing the hijab while non-Muslim members were forbidden from wearing revealing clothing. In-flight meals were completely halal and alcohol consumption was banned.

But after an "investigation into the administration and safety audit" of the airline, the Department of Aviation (DCA) said it has revoked Rayani's Air Operator Certificate.

The DCA launched an inquiry into the airline in April following a string of criticisms from passengers and the government over delays and last-minute cancellations.

That month saw pilots of the carrier, which operates two Boeing 737-400s, also go on strike over unpaid wages, further damaging its image.

DCA director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the government took the step to cease Rayani's operation because "safety and security of the aviation industry is of paramount importance".

However, the airline will appeal to Malaysia's airline authorities for a "second chance" for a new investor to revive the airline, said its owner Ravi Alegandrran.

"The revocations came at the peak of our negotiations with investors for the acquisition of equity in Rayani Air in realization that the present owners and their management are no longer fit to revive the airline," said Ravi in a statement on Monday.

He said the "qualified and strong management team" of its new investors would revive and manage the airline "much better than us".

Mr Ravi said the revival of the airline is "vital" in resolving the impacts from its "financial illness", such as employees' salaries, ticket refunds and other liabilities.

"To this end, Rayani Air Sdn Bhd will appeal to the Mavcom (Malaysian Aviation Commission) and the DCA to give the second chance for new investor to revive and manage the airline," he said.

The decision comes two years after Malaysia faced twin aviation disasters.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in a missile strike, killing all 298 people on board.

Australia is leading the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the remote Indian Ocean, where the Beijing-bound plane is believed to have diverted when it disappeared on March 8, 2014 carrying 239 passengers and crew.

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