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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s aviation safety rating with the United States has been upgraded, an official said Saturday, enabling airlines based in the Southeast Asian country to open new US routes.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Malaysia in 2019 for failing to meet international standards.

A demoted country’s carriers cannot expand services to the United States, with airlines flying existing routes there placed under “heightened” surveillance, according to the FAA.

Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said authorities appointed new heads and reformed its civil aviation regulator soon after the downgrade.

“Steps were taken to make serious changes,” he told a press conference on Saturday.

Wee said FAA officials reassessed Malaysia in 2021 and again in mid-July this year, leading to the upgrade.

Aviation chiefs warn of prolonged ticket price pain

With the barriers gone, Wee said it was up to airlines to open new routes.

Low-cost carrier AirAsia lauded the news, saying it would create more opportunities for expansion to the United States and other countries.

“After an industry reset following the pandemic, this announcement could not have come at a better time,” said AirAsia Group chief executive Bo Lingam in a statement.

Malaysia currently serves only one route to the United States with AirAsia X, AirAsia’s long-haul unit, which flies to Honolulu via the Japanese city of Osaka.

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