No short cuts for Myanmar’s airlines

YANGON, 13 July 2020: Myanmar’s airports might not open to international commercial flights until October according to National Tourism Development Central Committee’s vice-president Henry Van Thio.

Based on a report in the Irrawaddy, an online news channel, the travel industry will have to wait until October at the earliest to start recovery.

But there no guarantee that even if the country opens its skies to international flights that there will be any takers other than airlines offering repatriation flights.

Domestic flights are operating but are restricted to Myanmar citizens and foreign residents registered in the country. There are foreign tourists stranded in the country since the end of March still waiting for repatriation flights home. Also, hundreds of Myanmar citizens are still overseas waiting for an opportunity to return home.

The Myanmar government said that when it reopens commercial flights they will be restricted to routes serving neighbouring cities in the  ASEAN region and later countries across Asia.

Initially, officials hoped that “travel bubbles” or corridors could be set up with Thailand and Vietnam to resume direct flights with passengers who would be exempt from the 14-day quarantine rules, but that is now unlikely.

Thailand has ditched the travel bubble ideas after public health officials insisted the 14-day quarantine was an essential element to limit the spread of Covid-19. There have been second and third wave infections in countries such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Australia making it almost impossible to find low-risk countries to establish a partnership.

Myanmar has banned all international commercial passenger flights since 31 March. The government extended the ban on a fortnightly basis, with the latest ban in effect until 31 July. Only cargo, medical evacuation and special flights are approved by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).

The Myanmar government has also operated repatriation flights, bringing Myanmar citizens back from Thailand, Singapore, India and Korea.

Myanmar has reported 321 confirmed cases of Covid-19 of which 250 of whom have recovered. There hardly any serious testing taking place.

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