Mandalay, Imphal flight launch delayed

The launch of a planned air route between Mandalay and Imphal in northern India has been delayed while logistical details are finalised with Indian authorities, a Golden Myanmar Airlines official said last week.

Managing director U Aung Gyi said the twice-a-week service was originally due to launch on June 27. Golden Myanmar is offering the flights in cooperation with Indian company KB Enterprises.

“We postponed it until further notice,” U Aung Gyi said. “[When it launches] we will operate two charter flights a week and passengers will get visas on arrival in Imphal.”

The delays are thought to be related to immigration rules for incoming passengers.

“We will definitely launch the Mandalay-Imphal flight after some preparations for the issuing of visas on arrival for Myanmar passengers,” he said, adding that visa on arrival at Imphal would only be available for Myanmar citizens and other nationalities would have to get a visa in advance.

Sailas Thangal, deputy chief of mission at the Indian embassy in Yangon, said the Indian government supports the route expansion and hopes there will be enough passengers flying between Imphal and Mandalay to make it “commercially viable”.

“This is all part of our [project] to [improve] connectivity between India and Myanmar,” he said. “I hope [flights] will start very soon and it will be satisfying for all of us.”

However, he said the details of who would qualify for visa on arrival are still being finalised.

“I don’t know if they’re going to include a wider range of passengers [for visa on arrival].”

While Imphal is not a major tourism destination, U Aung Gyi said there are significant “people-to-people” links between Mandalay and several states in northeastern India, including Assam and Manipur, of which Imphal is the capital.

“Some Assamese have relatives in Mandalay so this new route will be very useful for people from the two cities.”

Imphal’s airport was upgraded to international status in late 2013 and is being rapidly expanded as part of plans to turn it into a regional hub, with flights to Thailand and Singapore as well as Myanmar.


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