Following a problematic first year in operation, Malaysia’s first Islam-compliant airline has been banned from flying.
Regulators announced Monday they had permanently grounded Rayani Air, Malaysia’s first sharia-compliant airline, months after it was suspended from flying for breaching aviation regulations.
The airline made international headlines when it launched in December last year for operating flights according to strict tenants of Islamic law, such as banning alcohol and serving only halal-certified food, saying prayers before takeoff and requiring female flight crew to wear hijabs.
Non-Muslim passengers were welcome to fly with the airline but were forbidden from wearing “revealing” clothing.
In April, Malaysia’s Department of Aviation launched an inquiry into Rayani Air — which operates two Boeing 737-400s — following a string of complaints by passengers about flight delays and last-minute cancellations.
Then, the airline’s pilots went on strike over unpaid wages, while more controversy followed when passengers complained they’d been handed handwritten boarding passes for Rayani Air flights, sparking security concerns.
Malaysia's Department of Aviation said this week Rayani Air’s Air Operator Certificate had now been revoked.
The department’s director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the government took that step because “safety and security of the aviation industry is of paramount importance”.
In a separate statement, the Malaysian Aviation Commission said the airline “had breached the conditions of its Air Service Licence and lacks the financial and management capacity to continue operating as a commercial airline.”
Passengers who have bought a ticket with Rayani Air and are now unable to fly can file a complaint with the airline and request a refund, the commission said.
Rayani Air was based in the Langkawi archipelago on Malaysia’s east coast and flew to the capital Kuala Lumpur and the northern city of Kota Bahru.
It had been planning flights to Mecca for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.
Rayani Air’s founder Ravi Alagendrran said: “The revocations came at the peak of our negotiations with investors for the acquisition of equity in Rayani Air on realisation that the present owners and their management are no longer fit to revive the airline."
The “qualified and strong management team” of its new investors would revive and manage the airline “much better than us”, he added.