MNA drops Phuket flight

PHUKET, 14 June 2018: Myanmar National Airlines has abruptly ended its Yangon-Phuket service that it inaugurated, 25 March, due to poor sales.

The airline posted a notice at Phuket airport, earlier this week, saying the twice-weekly service had been suspended.

The airline’s office staff in Phuket claimed the service would resume in October when the winter season begins in Myanmar, possibly with three flights a week.

Myanmar’s national airline used a 100-seat Embraer 190 on the route with 100 seats, but it was facing an uphill climb selling enough tickets to justify the service.

The timing and frequencies suggested the airline pitched its sales to residents in Yangon, who wanted to book a weekend holiday departing to Phuket late Friday and returning from the South Thailand holiday island late Sunday evening.

Phuket is also home to a number of international hospitals and medical tourism from Myanmar to Thailand is a strong source of business for airlines.

But delivering a service that tour operators could rely on year-round would have ultimately encouraged bookings from Europeans flying direct to Phuket for a beach holiday that could be combined with a heritage visit to Yangon.

If Myanmar National Airlines resumes services in October it will face competition from Bangkok Airways on the Phuket-Yangon route.  The Thai airline is planning a service this November with three flights weekly and it has much stronger business connections with tour operators in Europe.

MNA doesn’t help its cause by presenting a website that offers no information on the airline’s route expansion or scheduled changes. The latest news on its media centre page is dated 2016.

There was also recent speculation that MNA was considering a new service linking Siem Reap and Bagan.

But local newspapers in Yangon reported that the airline had backed away from the plan saying a service between Cambodia’s heritage town and Bagan was no longer in the mix.

Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation claimed that MNA applied for a licence to operate between the two destinations last November.

The plan was to fly between Siem Reap famed for its UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Wat and Bagan, a city in Myanmar that hopes to achieve the same UNESCO status over the next few years.

Bagan’s airport is not designated as an international gateway with immigration and customs formalities, which has prevented airlines in the region from considering direct services to what is considered the nation’s most famous heritage destination.