After years under the grip of military rule, Myanmar began economic and political reforms in 2011 that led to the removal of economic sanctions and opened the country up to the potential of foreign investment and tourism.
Since then, demand for travel to the country has increased rapidly, with business travellers keen to explore its huge opportunities and leisure travellers to see its sights. In our recent poll (see here), 69.6 per cent of Business Traveller Asia-Pacific readers said they had recently been, or were planning to go to, Myanmar (with 80 per cent of these respondents visiting for leisure).
In response to this surging demand, the different world airlines have all been rushing to start services to the country. Here are five of the most recently launched flights to Yangon.
A Condor 767-300 is used to fly between Frankfurt and Yangon
The flight: The flight leaves Frankfurt on Tuesday at 1440 and lands in Myanmar's largest city the next morning at 0625. The return flight goes via Phuket – departing Yangon at 0745 on Wednesday, arriving in Phuket at 1015, then taking off at 1145 to touch down back in Germany at 1840.
When it started: November 7, 2012
Last flew to Myanmar: Condor previously operated flights to Myanmar between 1996 and April of 1997.
Why it started the flight: The airline said it is constantly looking for new destinations. These need to have an existing infrastructure and a sufficient stream of tourists. Whenever a route promises it can be operated with profit over time and has a good tourist infrastructure in place Condor sees an opportunity and starts the service. It said its expansion of its fleet to 12 B767-300s this autumn has also helped allow it to start the route.
What aircraft is used: The service uses a 268-seat A767-300, This has 35 premium economy seats and 18 of what the airline calls “comfort class” seats. The airline said this configuration was intended to offer a range of options, with seats that offer a variety of features: some provide maximum affordability, others increased comfort, and a further few get guests a higher class of product but still remain in the price range of the leisure market.
Service upgrades: Condor said they do not have any plans to upgrade the service at present.
Fares: A return fare between Frankfurt and Yangon in mid-January is €949.98 (US$1,229) in economy class, €1519.98 (US$1,967) in premium economy, and €3,139.98 (US$4,064) in comfort class*.
777-200 aircraft as used on Singapore to Yangon route
The flight: Flight SQ998 leaves Singapore daily at 0755 and arrives into Yangon at 0920, with the return leg SQ997 leaving at 1025 and landing at 1445.
When it started: October 28, 2012
Last flew to Myanmar: SIA has not previously served Yangon.
Why it started the flight: According to Mak Swee Wah, executive vice president commercial for SIA: "Demand has been growing strongly for both business and leisure travel to Myanmar... SIA and SilkAir are constantly looking at new market opportunities and the launch of SIA services enables us to quickly meet the growing demand for travel to this increasingly popular destination.”
What aircraft is used: The service uses a 777-200 aircraft that is configured with 30 business class and 293 economy class seats.
Service upgrades: In launching the route, SIA took over seven of the 16 flights to Yangon operated by its sister airline SilkAir to and begun operating them with a larger aircraft, boosting overall capacity on the route by 55 per cent. Asked if they have any plans to upgrade the route further, the airline said they look at their services on a regular basis and should demand for a Singapore Airlines' services to Yangon increase, they will certainly review and consider.
Fares: A round trip Flexi Saver economy class fare departing Singapore mid-January is S$527.70 (US$432), and a business class fare is S$1682.50 (US$1,376)*.
The 38-seat business class cabin of ANA's flights to Yangon
The flight: Between Tokyo Narita Airport and Yangon, departing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
When it started: October 16, 2012
Last flew to Myanmar: The airline last flew to Myanmar 12 years ago but suspended flights when it fell under military rule and most Japanese businesses pulled out of the country.
Why it started the flight: According to an ANA spokesperson: “Many Japanese companies are interested in visiting Myanmar for the first time and seeing how it is... In the next few years, more businesses will move in there.”
What aircraft is used: The airline uses a 737-700ER aircraft for the route. This is configured with 38 business class seats only. ANA said they had chosen to make the route all business class because their target for this route was business passengers and they did not anticipate much leisure demand, although this may grow. They previously operated all business class flights to Mumbai.
Service upgrades: The airline said no upgrades are planned at present, but there is “plenty of possibility of using bigger planes on the route, making it two class, or increasing frequency”.
Fares: Between now and the end of March 2013 round-trip fares to Yangon will be ¥225,000 (US$2,851) on weekdays and ¥305,000 (US$3,865) at weekends
A321-200 aircraft – Eva Air will upgrade to this on its Yangon route from next year
The flight: Flight BR287 departs Taoyuan International Airport at 0745 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and arrives at Yangon International Airport at 1035, with the return leg BR288 leaving Yangon at 1135 and landing 1730.
When it started: October 9, 2012
Last flew to Myanmar: EVA Air used to serve the Taipei to Yangon route between August 18 in 1997 and March 29 in 1998.
Why it started the flight: At the time of the launch, the airline said it saw a growing demand for both business and leisure travel to Yangon. It anticipated that 30 per cent or more of its passengers would be from North America, connecting through Taiwan to Myanmar. In addition, it saw demand from Taiwanese business people, and Burmese living in Taiwan.
What aircraft is used: The airline currently uses a MD90 aircraft with 12 business and 140 economy class seats.
Service upgrades: It initially planned to upgrade the aircraft in Q2 of 2013, but has brought this forward to the start of they year when it will use an A321-200 aircraft with eight business and 176 economy seats. It said the upgrade was because studies had shown “good potential of travel demand to Myanmar”.
Fares: Round trip fares between Taipei and Yangon departing mid-January are TW$15,500 (US$533) for economy class and TW$27,316 (US$939) for business class*. Eva Air said fares are continually being updated.
Qatar plane in Yangon
The flight: The daily flight QR618 leaves Doha at 2105 and arrives in Yangon at 0629 the next morning, with the return leg QR619 leaving Yangon at 0800 and arriving back in Doha 1145.
When it started: October 4, 2012
Last flew to Myanmar: The airline started flights to Yangon in 2004, but then suspended them in 2008 due to lack of demand.
Why it started the flight: Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker said at the time of the launch that Myanmar showed "enormous potential and growth, both as a competitive tourism destination and centre for business".
What aircraft is used: The flight uses an A319 aircraft in a two-class configuration offering eight seats in business and 102 in economy.
Service upgrades: The airline began the service as a three-times weekly flight and then upgraded the service to daily on October 24.
*Prices based on a web search on December 11, 2012 for flights leaving January 12, 2013 and returning January 18, 2013.