Thursday, July 27, 2017

AirAsia plans Bagan, Nay Pyi Taw flights

Budget carrier Thai AirAsia plans to launch international flights to Bagan and Nay Pyi Taw before the 2013 Southeast Asian Games, the airline’s chief executive officer told The Myanmar Times last week.

However, Mr Tassapon Bijleveld said facilities at nearly all of the country’s airports would have to be upgraded before international airlines can launch new routes.

“For flights to Bagan, we will look at maybe middle or the end of next year. I think we need to upgrade the facilities, such as ground handling services. But I am sure that in the near future, we will see the Nay Pyi Taw and Bagan [flights],” Mr Tassapon said in an interview at Mandalay Hill Resort on September 2.

“We have a plan to [fly to] Nay Pyi Taw but the facilities have to be upgraded … I am sure the government is doing it and by next year we should be able to fly to Nay Pyi Taw. I’m sure we will fly there before the SEA Games,” he said.

“The first [thing the government] has to do is to upgrade the airport facilities. Then more international airlines will start to come in. Myanmar is a new tourist attraction and a lot of people want to visit. I’m sure the Myanmar will be very good tourism market in Southeast Asia.”

Mr Tassapon was speaking at a promotional event ahead of AirAsia’s launch of a four-times-a-week service between Bangkok and Mandalay and the addition of a third Bangkok-Yangon daily flight, which will both take place on October 4.

“For Mandalay route, we will do four times a week at first. A lot of people would like to come and see Mandalay, especially the tourists from Europe. We have a lot of tourists coming to Thailand and many of them want to visit Myanmar,” he said.

However, he said he expects most of the initial passengers on the route will be Thai.

“They will come and see the temples here. There will be big arrival from European tourists too. I’m sure from October to March, there will be a lot of European tourist coming in as well,” he said, adding that the Bangkok-Mandalay flights will likely increase to daily frequency within six months.

“Mandalay airport is quite big enough [but] if we start the daily flights there will be requirements for restaurants, cafés, shops, even duty free shops, transportation and hotels – are there enough? So there are a lot of things [that need to be considered], not only the ground handling capacity.”

When asked whether AirAsia plans to establish a Myanmar subsidiary to fly domestic routes, he said it was possible provided the airline can find the right partner.

“We always look for opportunities, not only in Myanmar but many other countries as well, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. If we find the right partner, we will look into it … we will never close our door for opportunities,” he said.

“I think our first flight to Yangon was in 2006 so we have been operating to Yangon for six years already and I think we are quite familiar with Burmese people. And I’m sure that when the country is fully opened there will be many more airports in Myanmar that we can fly to … we would like to help grow the tourism of Myanmar.”