Thai Lion Air bound at last for Yangon
After some hiccups, Thai Lion Air (TLA) has finally been given the nod from Myanmar to launch a regular service from Bangkok to Yangon.
TLA's foray into Myanmar will intensify competition on the route, which has been served by major Thai-registered carriers such as Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, Nok Air and THAI Smile.
The Thai-registered low-cost carrier, a subsidiary of Indonesia's Lion Air Group, will commence twice-daily flights on the crowded route on July 22.
The launch is about two months behind the original May 20 schedule, which, according to insiders, was unexpectedly aborted after certain Myanmar carriers raised opposition to TLA's entry.
The sudden cancellation of TLA's promotional Yangon ticket sales in April triggered an outcry from Thai travellers, who complained about false advertising and the inconvenience of getting a refund for purchased tickets.
But the air has cleared, allowing TLA to resume ticket sales with rock-bottom fares starting at 980 baht, all-inclusive one-way, to undercut other airlines.
Some aviation analysts even see potential for TLA's entry to cause overcapacity on the city-pair.
But TLA does not subscribe to that perception and still expects growth in traffic demand on the route, citing the emergence of Myanmar's economy and its growing economic ties with Thailand.
The green light granted to TLA comes in the wake of reports that Myanmar's civil aviation department is crafting new regulations to restrict airline expansion in the country.
Myanmar has 11 airlines in operation, and officials have suggested that rules governing applications for permits will be tightened.
Yangon is part of TLA's international network expansion this year in Myanmar, Vietnam and China.
Here at home, the airline, now in its third year of operation, plans to add Trang, Khon Kaen and Phitsanulok and is considering connecting Hat Yai with Chiang Mai.
TLA has 21 Boeing jets, including eight B737-800 aircraft and 13 B737-900ERs. Three more Boeing jets will be added in the next few months.