AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has hinted that the company’s Japan air operator’s certificate AirAsia Japan could be another way for the LCC to continue expansion into the US.

The group’s long-haul arm, AirAsia X, is the only Malaysian carrier directly affected by the US FAA’s Nov. 11 decision to downgrade Malaysia to Category 2, preventing it from adding routes or frequencies to the US. 

AirAsia X currently flies 7X-weekly to Honolulu from Kuala Lumpur via Osaka.

“There are many ways for AirAsia to expand into the US. We can’t expand [with Thai AirAsia X] from Thailand as it is also Cat 2,” he said at a press conference. “But we have AirAsia Japan.”

He stopped short of explaining if or how he will do so, but it could involve basing longer-range aircraft in its Nagoya hub. Currently, AirAsia Japan only operates domestically with three leased Airbus A320s. 

He is confident that Malaysia will bounce back from the downgrade stronger, similar to how Indonesia was upgraded to Cat 1 in 2016 after over 10 years in the Cat 2 rating. 

“We should not be negative. We should be creative and put our differences aside and work hard and be the best,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that Malaysia will come out stronger, given the right people are given the chance to lead.”

On Nov. 14, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad demanded an explanation by FAA for the downgrade, which he said is important for the country to rectify problems and improve weaknesses.

Chen Chuanren, chuanren@purplelightvisuals.com