KUALA LUMPUR – Catering to a growing number of Muslim tourists, a new Shari`ah-compliant airlines was created in Malaysia to cater to Muslim travelers worldwide.
“I heard the airline follows Islamic teachings like reciting a prayer before takeoff,” Abdullah Al Mubarak, a 30-year-old teacher, told Bloomberg News on Sunday, January 24.
“The stewardesses are decently attired, which is good because I have a young son with me. If the service is good, I may switch to flying with them,” he added as he waited at the airport near Kuala Lumpur to board one of its flights back to his home in Kota Bharu, Malaysia.
Rayani Air had its maiden flight Dec. 20, becoming the fourth carrier to follow Islamic tenets after Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines and Iran Air.
The airline does not serve alcohol, offers halal food and requires Muslim female cabin crew to cover their heads.
It services five domestic destinations and has plans to fly overseas by 2017 according to Managing Director Jaafar Zamhari.
The company will compete for a portion of a Muslim $145 billion travel market that could expand to $200 billion by 2020, according to Singapore-based travel consultancy CrescentRating.
“Muslim travelers are indeed looking for services and experiences, which take their needs into account,” said Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive officer at CrescentRating in Singapore.
“There’s definitely growth potential for airlines” that prohibit alcohol, have halal food and provide prayer facilities, he said.
According to an earlier study by CrescentRating and MasterCard, a fast-growing, youthful and increasingly affluent Islamic population will boost the number of Muslim travelers by 39 percent to 150 million by 2020.
The sharp rise of tourists will require adding Muslim-friendly services such as in-flight prayer calculators and mobile-phone applications showing the location of mosques.
The number of Muslims will rise 73 percent to 2.8 billion by 2050, more than twice the rate for the world’s population, the Pew Research Center forecast in a report last year.
“Muslims are now becoming an important consumer market for the entire world,” according to the CrescentRating and MasterCard study.
“Faith is increasingly influencing their purchasing decisions. Muslim travel will continue to be one of the fastest-growing travel sectors in the world.”