Bangkok Airways has made a surprising foray into Myanmar with a plan to launch regular services to Nay Pyi Taw from Bangkok.
Its intended launch on Sept 30 is expected to pre-empt budget airline Thai AirAsia (TAA), which in June announced it would become the first carrier to connect the Thai and Myanmar capitals with scheduled service in October.
Until recently, Nay Pyi Taw was not on the radar of Bangkok Airways, which is set to embark on regular flights from Bangkok to Mandalay, its second Myanmar-bound route after Yangon, on Sept 15 before ramping up to daily on Oct 27, according to insiders.
The airline will stage three flights a week on 70-seat ATR 72-500 turboprops from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.
TAA's wager on Nay Pyi Taw is much larger, as it will use the 180-seat A320 jetliner, the only aircraft in its fleet, with four flights a week planned.
The two Thailand-based airlines are the only known international carriers that will provide direct scheduled flights to the Myanmar capital, though there are a handful of commercial airlines including All Nippon Airways, China Eastern Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines that operate charter flights to Nay Pyi Taw from their home bases.
TAA chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld confirmed the launch of the Nay Pyi Taw route from its Don Mueang base, with initial operation geared toward meeting travel demand for the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar this December.
Nay Pyi Taw is expected to host regional sports events and TAA plans to become an airline sponsor for Thai athletes travelling there.
Travel demand for Nay Pyi Taw, which boasts a new international airport capable of handling about 5 million passengers a year, is likely to be limited initially. But it has the potential for growth as international business travellers seek to strike deals with government officials.
Tony Fernandes, the AirAsia group chief executive, said in June that with the 27th SEA Games, Myanmar's chairmanship of Asean next year and the AEC in late 2015, there will be tremendous demand to connect Nay Pyi Taw to the rest of the world, and Bangkok is a perfect place to start.
Meanwhile, Nok Air, another Thai budget airline, is poised to commence regular flights from Don Mueang to Yangon on Nov 1 with four flights a week before adding a second flight on each of those days on Dec 1.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business