Budget airlines show interest in Myanmar

By Zaw Win Than
Volume 31, No. 615
February 20 - 26, 2012

BUOYED by expectations of an upsurge in leisure and business travellers, more regional low-cost carriers are reportedly looking at expanding operations to destinations outside Yangon.

Mr Brendan Sorbie, chief representative for Southeast Asia at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, said carriers such as Silk Air, AirAsia and Jetstar were poised to increase their operations.

“It is still early days yet, but given the size of Myanmar’s population and low GDP per head, it is apparent that the potential for outbound travel utilising low-cost carriers is immense, once the economy starts to lift,” he was quoted as saying on February 10 at the Travel Distribution World and Low Cost Airlines World Asia Pacific 2012 in Singapore.

“With the ASEAN open skies agreement set to take effect in 2015, Myanmar will also see an influx of arrivals. It’s the next huge growth market for low cost aviation,” he added, according to industry journal TTG Asia.

Earlier this month, The Myanmar Times reported that Malaysia-based AirAsia had applied to launch international flights to Bagan and Mandalay.

“We are looking at flights from Kuala Lumpur to Mandalay, which have never been done before … and we would like to fly from Thailand to Bagan,” the company’s founder and chief executive officer, Mr Tony Fernandes, said during a recent visit to Myanmar.

“We already proposed to fly Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok-Mandalay-Bagan-Kuala Lumpur-last month. We are not sure when we can start flying but we want to implement this within three months,” he said.

TTG Asia also quoted Silk Air’s planning manager Mr Joel Goh as saying that both Silk Air and Singapore Airlines were looking to expand services from Yangon to other cities.

“Silk Air and Singapore Airlines believe there is excellent potential for growth in Myanmar, particularly in Mandalay,” said Mr Goh told the publication.

“The political situation does not faze us – we’ve been operating in Myanmar since the early 1990s. Poor internal infrastructure such as lack of airport capacity outside of main cities and poorly maintained roads pose a bigger impediment to growth than politics.”