An Indian Hindu couple has launched Malaysia’s first Islamic airline – offering Shariah compliant services including prayers before take-off, no on-flight serving of alcohol or meals with pork and a strict dress code for female flight attendants.
Rayani Air founders Ravi Alagendrran and his wife Karthiyani Govindan – who used parts of their first names for the airline’s name – assured that passengers of all faiths would be welcome on the flights although they are primarily eyeing the Muslim market.
“This is not a matter of segregation. We have a target market and anyone wishing to travel in a modest and alcohol free environment will feel right at home,” Ravi told Malay Mail, adding, the Shariah-compliant industry had a huge potential for growth.
Department of Civil Aviation senior assistant director Jaafar Zamhari, who handed over the licence to the airline, said: “Muslim crew members will be obliged to cover their heads and non-Muslim members of the crew are required to dress decently in accordance to Shariah requirements.
“The airline will not allow any pork or alcoholic beverages on board and Islamic prayers will be conducted before every flight for the safety of the passengers.”
Ravi said the airline had hired 350 staff including eight pilots and 50 cabin crew and would fly five times a week between Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, at a distance of some 410 kilometers.
“Operations will be expanded to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu next year. International flights to Indonesia and the Philippines will be added at a later date,” he said.
Rayani Air’s fleet has two Boeing 737-400 aircraft with a capacity of 188 passengers each. The airliner operated its inaugural flight on Sunday.
Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country with Muslims constituting about 60 per cent of the country’s 30 million people. The country also has a sizeable Indian community, majority of them Hindus, forming about 6.3 per cent of the total population.
Many Muslim leaders in the country has blamed the two recent disasters involving Malaysia Airlines – Flight 370 which went missing in March last year and Flight 17 downed over Ukraine – were a message from God for breaking Islamic rules on flights.
Ahmad Tarmizi Sulaiman, a leader of the youth arm of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has blamed the disaster on serving of alcohol on flights.