Home' Asian Aviation : AAV_June2012 Contents 36 AsianAviation | JUNE 2012
Myanmar today is in a position that it
has probably been unaccustomed to
for most of its recent history. After a
general election that most dismissed
as a farce, it embarked on a different path of political
reform that resulted in former political prisoner Aung
San Suu Kyi gaining a foothold in the parliament.
A string of world leaders' visits later, the long-
lasting stranglehold of sanctions and embargoes is
finally easing ever so slightly and already demand for
travel into Myanmar has taken off.
Airlines have reported strong demand for seats
into Yangon and forward bookings are even more
promising. Taiwan's China Airlines has increased
its Taipei to Yangon service from three to four
times weekly and it has furthermore announced
a fifth weekly frequency, starting September 10.
From across the border in Thailand, Thai Airways
International has added a third daily flight between
Bangkok and Yangon, while Bangkok Airways too
will add a third daily frequency on the route starting
October 28, with a fourth kicking in on December 1.
A further shot in the arm for inbound tourism into
Myanmar comes from All Nippon Airways and Qatar
Airways. Both airlines have previously operated to
Yangon, but suspended services after a short stint.
Both have now announced plans to reinstate service
with ANA planning to do so at the end of 2012, after
a break of 12 years.
Flight frequencies are currently being negotiated
as interest grows from both corporate and
leisure travellers. Japan's second largest bank --
Mizuho Corporate Bank -- has already opened
a representative office in Yangon and Japanese
investors are making a beeline in a quest to home
in on choice development projects and tap natural
resources. Myanmar is rich in minerals, oil, jade and
other precious stones.
Qatar Airways is even more bullish, announcing
plans for thrice-weekly services from Doha, starting
October 3. This will be increased to a daily Airbus
A319 service by October 28, tapping into connecting
traffic from Europe, just in time for the peak winter
season. The airline last operated to Yangon in 2008
and is prepared to inject more capacity using Boeing
777 aircraft, if demand warrants such a move.
News coming out from Myanmar indicates that four
other airlines also have plans to operate to Yangon,
including Mihin Lanka (a Sri Lankan low-cost carrier),
Pakistan International Airlines, Biman Bangladesh
Airlines and Hong Kong Express Airlines. SilkAir
has added two weekly flights to the fourteen that it
currently operates from Singapore.
Myanmar's home-grown carriers, led by flag-carrier
Myanmar Airways International (MAI), seem to have
been caught by surprise in this latest development.
MAI operates to key trunk routes linking Yangon
to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and
has seasonally leased an Airbus A321 from Air
Mediterranee of France over the past two years.
Other Myanmar carriers include Myanma Airways
(previously operated as Union of Burma Airways and
Burma Airways Corporation), Air Mandalay, Yangon
Airways, Air Bagan, Air Kanbawza (operating as Air
KBZ) and Asian Wings Airways.
As foreign carriers quickly add capacity and
frequencies on the Yangon route, Myanmar's carriers'
share of the international aviation pie (the Sydney-
based consultancy Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation,
or CAPA, reports that MAI has a 26.2% share) is set
to shrink dramatically. Myanmar carriers other than
MAI -- constrained by the aircraft types they operate
-- look set to merely provide onward connections
from Yangon to domestic destinations.
Torbjorn Karlsson, Bombardier's vice-president
of sales for the Asia Pacific region, says: "Myanmar
is currently one of the most underserved markets
in ASEAN. Myanmar is the eighth-largest market
[by value] in the region, with only Brunei and Laos
smaller, but it is the fifth most populated. Malaysia
has an aviation market nearly 20 times larger, but has
a much smaller population."
CAPA reports that Myanmar, which has a
population of 48 million, is currently served by
48,444 international airline seats per week, while
Cambodia -- with a smaller population of 14 million
-- has 93,650 seats per week.
CAPA also says that foreign airport operators
too are keen to participate in the expansion and
management of airports in Yangon, Mandalay and
"Myanmar is currently one of the most underserved markets in ASEAN." -- Torbjorn
Karlsson, Bombardier vice-president of sales, Asia-Pacific
As international airlines line up to increase capacity to Myanmar as
political reforms take hold, local carriers have been caught unawares,
writes Kok Chwee Sim.
Myanmar Airways International operates key trunk routes out of Yangon.
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