Airport constraints at Bagan and Nay Pyi Taw are holding up plans by the no-frills Thai AirAsia (TAA) to serve the two cities as part of its expanding coverage of Myanmar from Thailand. Chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld yesterday said TAA now stands ready in terms of aircraft availability, but airports in the heritage destination and the new capital still need an upgrade, which will probably be completed next year.
Bagan and Nay Pyi Taw are the next two cities on TAA’s radar screen after the low-cost carrier yesterday announced the launch of the Bangkok-Mandalay route and addition of a third daily service between Bangkok and Yangon _ both due to commence on Oct 4.
Mr Tassapon said TAA is aggressively pursuing fast-growing air travel demand stimulated by the economic and political reforms taking place in the nation after some 60 years of isolation.
“We can land there [at Nay Pyi Taw and Bagan], but the airports’ facilities need to be upgraded, which is most unlikely to be done this year,” Mr Tassapon said without elaborating on the airport constraints.
He noted, however, that he believes Myanmar authorities are aware of the constraints and are addressing them.
TAA will become the second international airline to serve Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city after Yangon, and the first discount airline to fly there.
China Eastern operates non-stop flights between Mandalay and Kunming in China’s Yunnan province.
TAA will offer four flights a week _ Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday _ on the Bangkok-Mandalay sector, expecting an initial load factor of 70% in the first three months before ramping up to 80%.
Rising business and leisure demand for flights to Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial hub, has also prompted TAA to add a daytime flight to the existing morning and evening services.
TAA has been flying to Yangon over the past eight years.
To ensure high load during the initial operation, the airline will offer promotional fares as low as 1,500 baht one-way inclusive of taxes and fees for the Bangkok-Mandalay route and 1,290 baht for the Bangkok-Yangon trip.
Both flights are available for booking online until this next Sunday for travel between Oct 4 and Dec 31.
Aside from Nay Pyi Taw and Bagan, TAA is also looking to serve a few other cities in Myanmar, which Mr Tassapon declined to name.
Myanmar, particularly Yangon, is attracting more foreign airlines as reforms draw an influx of business and leisure travellers to the junta-ruled country.
At least five international airlines plan to establish direct connections with Yangon in the coming months, bypassing Bangkok, the main transit point for flights to the country.
Thirteen foreign airlines now serve Yangon, where arrivals are expected to surge to 3 million this year.
Photo Credit: Bangkok Post