Rayani Air: Five things about Malaysia's Islamic airline

In this 22 December 2015, photo, Rayani Air flight crew pray before departure at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang, Malaysia Image copyright AP
Image caption Prayer calls are observed onboard Rayani Air flights before take off

Billing itself as Malaysia's first Islamic airline, Rayani Air took to the skies this week offering passengers halal food and no alcohol on board its maiden flight. Here are five things to note about the new airline.

1. It says it is sharia compliant

This means it follows Islamic law. Besides its halal menu, prayer calls are observed before a flight takes off.

Muslim female flight attendants must wear hijabs, while non-Muslim staff will be required to "dress decently", reports say.

The airline will not allow any pork or alcoholic beverages on board, though it is not clear if this applies to passengers' luggage or duty-free.

2. But it's not the only Islamic airline in the world

There are numerous airlines from Muslim countries which have sharia compliant menus and rules, including Royal Brunei, Saudi Arabian and Iran.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Alcohol is also not served on board IranAir flights

London-based Firnas Airways plans to launch flights to South Asia next year, also with an alcohol-free halal inflight menu, and it uses interest-free finance according to sharia, according to Bloomberg.

3. Its owners are said not to be Muslim

Indian media reports say the airline's founders, Ravi Alagendrran and his wife Karthiyani Govindan, are Hindus, though this could not be independently confirmed.

Mr Alagendrran told The Malay Mail that while they started the airline to tap into the growing Muslim travellers market, his airline should also appeal to other passengers.

"This is not a matter of segregation. Anyone wishing to travel in a modest and alcohol free environment will feel right at home," he told the newspaper.

Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country which practises a moderate form of Islam.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The airline wants to tap on the growing Muslim traveller market

Another possible inspiration for the airline is the belief among some conservative Malaysian Muslims that the recent Malaysia Airlines disasters - the disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17 - were linked to Allah's wrath, reported AP.

4. It's not to be confused with a certain Irish airline

While its name bears a striking resemblance to low-cost European carrier RyanAir, Rayani Air is said to be mash-up of the founders' first names - Ravi and Karthiyani.

5. It has big ambitions

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The airline only has eight pilots and 50 crew at the moment

Rayani is a domestic airline based on the resort island of Langkawi, and currently flies to the capital Kuala Lumpur and the northern city of Kota Bahru.

It only has two Boeing 737-400 planes in its fleet, each able to carry about 180 passengers, and just eight pilots and 50 crew.

But it has set its sights on rapid expansion, with plans to fly to more Malaysian cities - and eventually flights to Mecca, for umrah and hajj pilgrimages, reports The New Straits Times.

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