‘Sharia-compliant’ airline takes off in Malaysia

Malaysia’s first “sharia-compliant” airline made its inaugural domestic flight over the weekend and it hopes to include international routes next year, a senior airline official said.

Rayani Air will initially serve the domestic routes in the predominantly Muslim northern states of Kedah and Kelantan, as well as the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak, managing director Jaafar Zamhari told the DPA news agency on Tuesday.

The airline does not allow alcohol to be consumed on its flights and serves only halal food, Jaafar said.

Sharia is Islamic law based on the teachings of the Koran, and governs many day-to-day practices for observant Muslims.

“It is compulsory for our Muslim women cabin crew to wear hijab and for non-Muslims to wear a decent uniform,” he added.

Jaafar added that there are also prayers and recitals before each flight departs.

The new airline has 355 employees, which includes eight pilots and 50 cabin crew.

Rayani Air’s fleet consists of two Boeing 737-400 aircraft, he added.

The airline plans to expand its network in Asia next year and  to introduce flights to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah and Hajj.

The idea for Rayani Air grew out of much-publicised complaints by conservative Muslims who believed that two major air disasters for the national Malaysia Airlines — Flight 370 that went missing in March 2014 and Flight 17 downed a few months later over Ukraine — were caused by Allah’s wrath.

Their solution: Airlines should adopt Islamic customs to avoid divine retribution.

“We are answering the call of many Malaysians who wanted an Islamic airline,” Zamhari told the AP news agency.

“We are not talking about being a holy airline or flying to holy destinations. We just want to provide an alternative to travellers, but we are open to all races and religions.”