Malaysia's first shariah-compliant airlines, Rayani Air has started operations on 20 December, kicking off with a domestic route from Kuala Lumpur to the resort island of Langkawi. The airline only serves halal food and alcohol consumption on board is strictly prohibited.
Muslim flight crew have to use the hijab while non-Muslim crew are to be "decently dressed", according to the airlines' Managing Director , There will also be prayer recitals before the departure of each flight, he said.
The airline will initially fly to Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Bharu, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. There are plans to introduce routes to the Middle East and provide flights for both the Umrah and Hajj.
The airline has two Boeing 737-400 aircraft and hopes to add more aircraft as it expands its network in the Asia region next year. It currently has 355 employees, including eight pilots and 50 cabin crew.
Jaafar has insisted that Rayani Air was not a low-cost carrier nor a hybrid, despite a description about the airline on its own website describing itself as the "latest low cost carrier from Malaysia".
The airline, in its website boasts of a 20-40kg check-in baggage allowance. It also says its room seats in both the economy and business class have received rave reviews.
"We are the first Malaysian airline to be shariah-compliant based on guidelines by relevant authorities. We are proud of this. The shariah-compliant aspects will be refined as time goes by," Jaafar said. The airline was awarded the Air Service Licence and the Air Operator's Certificate from the Department of Civil Aviation on 18 December.
Rayani Air is the fourth airline in the world to implement shariah-compliant rules. The other airlines include Royal Brunei Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Iran Air.
The UK-based Firnas Airways is planning to offer similar flights next year, according to a Bloomberg news report. AFP noted that although Muslim-majority Malaysia has long practised a moderate form of Islam, conservative attitudes are increasing.
The news agency said a company has recently introduced halal bottled mineral water in Malaysia and an Islamic speed dating launched, where single women are chaperoned. Under the halal concept, pork and its by-products, alcohol and animals not slaughtered according to Islamic procedures are forbidden to be consumed.
The halal standards is not only confined to food but also to cosmetics products which may contain animal-derived ingredients. It also covers the conditions under which they are prepared and stored as well.