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Suvarnabhumi » Burmese carrier launches flights to new Bangkok Airport

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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Air Bagan, the first privately owned carrier in military-ruled Burma, has started daily flights between Rangoon and Bangkok, its first international route heralding an ambitious overseas expansion. The airline, which was launched in November 2004 as a domestic carrier, is also preparing to start daily flights from its Rangoon hub to Singapore in September, and a Rangoon-Mandalay-Kunming route in August, twice weekly.

They will be followed by the launch in October of regular flights to Siem Reap in Cambodia as well as chartered flights to Incheon and Osaka, according to chairman Yay Za, a Burmese tycoon who built his diverse business empire from timber exports.

The airline is also eyeing services to India as part of its future expansion plan that includes the acquisition of additional aircraft, managing director Soe Win said.

More immediately, Air Bagan plans to buy a 158-seat Airbus A320 from Singapore in September to reinforce its international fleet, adding to its current fleet consisting of two Airbus A310-200, two Fokker F-100 jets, two ATR-72 and three ATR-42 turboprops.

The airline is using an A310-200 on the Bangkok-Rangoon route that began on Tuesday. The airline will be competing with Thai Airways International (THAI) no-frills carrier Thai AirAsia, and Myanmar Airways International, Burma’s flag carrier.

Mr Soe Win said Air Bagan benchmarked its Bangkok-Rangoon fare on those of Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways, but slightly higher than that of Myanmar Airways.

It plans to use the A310-200 for its flights to Singapore and the Fokker 100 for its future service to Kunming and Siem Reap.

Air Bagan will share the growing tourism traffic on the Bangkok-Rangoon route.

”We picked Bangkok as our first international destination because it is where most tourists coming to Burma are from,” explained the ex-Burmese airforce pilot, adding ”there are many businessmen who come to Rangoon from Bangkok”.

However, there is no plan in the pipeline for Air Bagan to serve additional destinations in Thailand, he noted.

It is promoting the Bangkok-Rangoon route by offering a reduced fare of 5,850 baht for a return ticket which includes passenger surcharges at Suvarnabhumi airport but not for Rangoon airport.

The carrier, backed by a 400-strong workforce, already flies to 17 destinations in Burma including Mandalay, Nyaung U (the gateway to ancient city of Bagan), and the new administrative capital Naypyitaw.

The other carriers in Burma are Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways and Air Myanmar.  (Boonsong/Bkk Post)

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