On the route to Mandalay
BANGKOK, 7 August 2012: Thai AirAsia schedules to kick off its Bangkok-Mandalay services, 4 October, while the planned Bagan and Nay Pyi Daw services will be delayed until required facilities at the two destinations are in place.
Thai AirAsia will operate four weekly flights to and from Mandalay on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday departing Bangkok at 0850 and arriving Mandalay at 1015. The return flight will depart at 1045 and arrive in Bangkok at 1310.
Currently, there is just one international service to Mandalay — China Eastern Airlines from Kunming (daily), while Thai AirAsia will be the first carrier to serve the city from Bangkok. Air Mandalay used to operate flights from Mandalay to Chiang Mai in North Thailand, but pulled out due to poor traffic.
Thai AirAsia CEO, Tassapon Bijleveld, said the airline projected a load factor during the first three months of around 70% and that the route could sustain an average 85% over the first year.
“The new service will facilitate travel to the old capital, which now requires a transfer to domestic flights or tedious travel by road…It should attract both seniors seeking a pilgrimage to Bagan or young travellers who would like to explore the region,” he said.
The Mandalay service will also cut the need for an expensive Yangon overnight as hotels in the city capitalize on a surge in business travel. Tour operators who can handle low-cost airline booking procedures will welcome an alternative as hotel rates are soaring to as high as US$300 a night compared with US$80 a year ago.
At the same time the airline will add an extra flight to Yangon increasing frequency to three flights daily. The additional flight will depart Bangkok at 1210 and from Yangon at 1325. The existing flights operate in the morning and late afternoon departing Bangkok at 0715 and 1650 and from Yangon at 0835 and 1805.
As for Bagan and Nay Pyi Daw, he said the carrier had already gained permission to fly, but the launch was subject to the readiness of Myanmar’s airports and supporting facilities. The service should start early next year.
In the meantime, private jets are being chartered by corporate travellers who need to meet government officials in Nay Pyi Daw and be back in Bangkok on the same day.
VIP Jets, a private jet firm owned by Asian Trails’ chairman Luzi Matzig, flew a group to the capital, late last month, for an afternoon of business meetings with ministers and returned to Bangkok in the evening. This option is gaining the attention of corporations that need to fast track negotiations with government departments that are all based in Nay Pyi Daw.
Until scheduled services are available between Bangkok and Nay Pyi Daw, the private charters are the only nonstop flight options available. There are a few charter flights to Nay Pyi Daw operated by All Nippon Airways, Hong Kong Airlines and China Southern Airlines again for business travellers who need to touch base with government ministers to negotiate joint ventures or investment in the country. There are no international services to Bagan.
Thai AirAsia CEO declined to elaborate on airport’ constraints either in Bagan or Nay Pyi Daw. “I cannot say when we would be able to launch services. It is in the hands of Myanmar’s authorities.”
The airline plans a daily flight to Nay Pyi Daw and three flights a week to Bagan.
Myanmar counselor to Thailand, Aung Myint reported at the press conference that flagship carrier, Myanmar Airways International, plans to launch flights between Mandalay and Bangkok by early 2013.
Meanwhile, there are several carriers that are operating flights to Yangon that are also considering services to Mandalay, Bagan and Nay Pyi Daw such as Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways International, Silk Air, Malaysia Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Asia.
As for other destinations, Mr Tassapon said Thai AirAsia would add about three more including two Chinese cities.
Regarding ASEAN destinations, he said before 2015, the carrier should be able to fly to cities that are not subject to limitation on traffic right such as Danang in Vietnam and Laos’ Savannakhet and Pakse. Feasibility studies are being conducted.
To introduce the new Mandalay services, it is running a promotional campaign until 12 August. The one-way all-in fares are Bt1,500 for Mandalay and Bt1,290 for Yangon (only the new flight) are valid for travel from 4 October to 31 December.