KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — Budget airline AirAsia’s right-to-fly has only been extended by six months instead of the standard two years, The Sun newspaper reported today, while a separate AFP report said it was because an audit by regulators found “some issues”.
It is unclear what the issues are — with a source telling The Sun that it was not a serious safety concern — but the latest problems for the airline and its flamboyant boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes appear to signify an end to his previously cosy relationship with the Malaysian establishment.
Fernandes and AirAsia have come under increased attacks in recent months from a few MPs in Parliament, with one Umno lawmaker calling him a thief this week and accusing the airline of reaping unconscionable profits, although no details were provided.
The attacks against Fernandes and AirAsia started soon after he announced his decision to move the airline’s regional operations to Jakarta earlier this year, while continuing his criticisms over the rising costs and potential delays in the construction of KLIA2.
A government official told AFP today the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) had decided to extend the low-cost carrier’s air operator’s certificate (AOC) until March 31 next year, at which point it will need to reapply.
AOCs are usually granted for two years.
“The department already audited AirAsia, and they only approved six months for AirAsia,” the official told AFP.
“AirAsia needs to apply again for renewal... next year,” he added.
The official said the carrier, Asia’s largest low-cost carrier by fleet size, faced “some issues... that have been found.”
But he did not elaborate further.
The Sun daily said an audit showed “shortcomings in AirAsia’s flight operations procedures and practices, including flawed communications between flight operations and pilots, an outdated manual and flight operations not in keeping with the manual”.
“The fact that they have not grounded AirAsia aircraft shows that it’s not a serious safety issue, but this action still serves as a warning,” a source told The Sun.