RANGOON — Myanmar Airways International (MAI) plans to expand its international flight schedule and begin weekly flights to South Korea and Japan early next year, a company representative said on Thursday.
In 2013, MAI began operating several charter flights per month to Seoul, Tokyo and Osaka, but Aye Mra Tha, MAI’s sale and marketing director, said that the airline now planned to set up regular flights due to growing demand in the East Asian countries.
She said MIA would schedule weekly flights to South Korea and Japan using its 120- and 180-seat passenger Airbus planes. “There are a lot of Japanese and Korean businessmen coming [to Burma], we need to make preparations to start [flights] now,” Aye Mra Tha said.
She said the company was still determining how many weekly flights it would operate, but added that flights are expected to start in the first quarter of 2014.
“We also have more Japanese and Korean tourists here. That’s why we are already running charter flights,” Aye Mra Tha said, adding that Burmese demand for flights to South Korea and Japan was limited.
MIA also has a codeshare agreement with Korean Air, under which the airlines share a flight route between Rangoon and Seoul. “We’ve already linked up with Korean Air through codeshare, we’re selling tickets for them and I can say that operations are running well because we sell tickets at reasonable prices,” Aye Mra Tha said.
MAI has a fleet of 11 planes that fly international flights to Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia, Malaysia, India, China, Japan and South Korea. The airliner is 80 percent owned by Kanbawza Bank and 20 percent state-owned.
Burma’s aviation industry is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Domestic demand and the number international tourist and business visitors are projected to increase dramatically as a result of economic reforms and the opening up of the country after decades of military rule.
According to the Department of Civil Aviation, the number of passengers in 2013 will climb to 4.2 million, up from 3.6 million last year. In 2030, the total number of air passengers is projected to rise to 30 million.
Japan and South Korea are among the largest group of foreign visitors, according to data of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, with about 30,000 and 23,000 visitors, respectively, between January and September.
Japan’s All Nippon Airline (ANA) and Korea Air operate flights to Burma, while ANA has also bought a 49-percent stake in Burma’s Asia Wings.