Apr 3, 2012

Airlines plot out expansion plans to tap Myanmar rise

As Myanmar is opening up for investment, airlines are mapping out strategic plans to cash in on the surging traffic flows for business and leisure travel.

International carriers including Thailand's Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia are looking at raising capacity to Yangon and operating flights directly to other major cities like Mandalay, Bagan and even the new capital Naypyitaw.

Airlines see a potential boom in air travel demand to Myanmar as its political reforms saw opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) win a historic victory in Sunday's by-election.
Business travel is expected to significantly increase, particularly to the commercial city Yangon, as foreign investors, businessmen and executives fly to the resource-rich nation for business opportunities and deals.

Tourist flows to Myanmar, which started to jump the past two years, will continue as Naypyitaw plans to attract 1 million visitors this year, up from 816,369 in 2011 and 791,505 in 2010, according to state figures.
Tour operators specialising in Southeast Asia have been receiving robust demand for Myanmar-bound trips.
Several international airlines, including Cathay Pacific, are pondering using Bangkok as a possible gateway to enter Myanmar, as it has been for years.

All five Myanmar carriers and 16 international airlines operate out of Yangon International Airport, through which about half of foreign visitors arrive and depart the country.

Bangkok Airways is looking at adding more frequencies to its Bangkok-Yangon service, now at two flights a day, while discussing a partnership with Air Bagan to cover more cities such as Bagan and Mandalay.
"We are exploring code-sharing arrangements and looking at the timing to get such a plan off the ground," said Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osot.

No-frills carrier Thai AirAsia is pondering the viability of offering incremental service beyond its current two flights a day using the 180-seat A320 jet, which enjoys a high load factor. It is also waiting for approval from Myanmar on a Bangkok-Naypyitaw route.

Source: Bangkok Post