The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed reports that Malaysia has regained its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category 1 rating. It follows Malaysia's Ministry of Transport (MOT) and its aviation safety agency, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), launching a social media blitz on the weekend, saying that three years after its downgrade to Category 2, the country had regained the top rating as of October 1, 2022.

Malaysia lost its Category 1 ranking after the FAA identified 58 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards issues, 25 of which were promptly addressed. However, the outstanding 33 issues still apparent during a reassessment in the same year resulted in the downgrade. A Category 2 ranking doesn't prevent a country's airlines from continuing existing operations to or from the US, but it does prevent them from expanding services or new airlines commencing flights to the US.

"The past two years have been an important period for CAAM as the entire organization has been restructured while various efforts have been undertaken to strengthen its workforce, documentation and develop a comprehensive training policy for inspectors to ensure effective safety oversight is carried out for the aviation industry," said Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong during an October 1 press conference. "We are very pleased to share that today, the FAA has officially announced Malaysia has regained Category 1 of the IASA rating, and for this extremely proud achievement, I applaud everyone at CAAM for their tireless effort and commitment to this success."

Malaysia Airports Managing Director Dato' Iskandar Mizal Mahmood said MOT and CAAM put in "massive efforts" to have the Category 1 rating reinstated. He says the outcome will increase confidence in the quality of Malaysia's air navigation services and potentially improve its air connectivity.

In a statement, the AirAsia Aviation Group also welcomed Malaysia regaining its Category 1 ranking, saying it opened up medium and long-haul network opportunities. Malaysia Airlines (MH, Kuala Lumpur Int'l) owner Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) was similarly upbeat, saying "MAG is pleased to be able to support CAAM by being part of a Task Force that was formed to identify root causes, corrective action plans, and corrective measures in response to the downgrade in 2019."

"The FAA returned Malaysia to Category 1 status following a thorough review of its progress in improving its safety oversight processes. A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with ICAO standards. Under a Category 1 rating, properly authorized Malaysian air carriers are permitted to serve the United States and enter into code-share agreements with U.S. carriers without limitation," says an FAA statement.

The ch-aviation PRO airlines module reveals that 31 active airlines are based in Malaysia, of which seven are scheduled passenger airlines. Five of those airlines - Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, AirAsia, AirAsia X, and Batik Air Malaysia, all operate international services. However, except for Malaysia Airlines, none have ever operated scheduled passenger flights to the US. That airline ended its last US service in April 2014, axing Los Angeles Int'l flights well before the Category 2 downgrade. At the time, Malaysia Airlines said operating the route was no longer viable. Before that, the airline had also operated services to Newark, Honolulu, and New York JFK. While Malaysia also has four dedicated cargo airlines, the ch-aviation capacities module indicates none are presently operating flights to the US.