Playing bridging role between Korea and Myanmar

Myanmar Airways International to launch Incheon-Yangon route on Oct. 26

Myanmar Airways International (MAI) will launch the Incheon-Yangon route on Oct. 26, offering another option to Korean business travelers and tourists heading to the Southeast Asian nation.

MAI plans to fly between Incheon International Airport and Yangon International Airport five times a week, using an Airbus 320 aircraft capable of accommodating 175 passengers.

In an interview with The Korea Times, Danny Kim, MAI’s country manager in Korea, said he hopes more Koreans will visit the Southeast Asian nation as Myanmar’s national carrier, founded in 1993, offers tickets at affordable prices.

“We are not a low-cost carrier. We are Myanmar’s only national carrier,” Kim said. “Myanmar is not yet a popular tourist destination for Koreans. But the country is full of natural wonders and boasts of world-renowned Buddhist temples and other ancient remains. I think the number of Korean tourists to the country will grow at a fast pace in the upcoming years, given that many have already traveled to Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations and may want a new destination to explore.”

In addition, the number of business travelers to Myanmar has been increasing in recent years as more Korean companies invest in the nation, the manager said. “We would like to act as a bridge between Myanmar and Korea. We believe that more Koreans will visit the nation for business and pleasure. An exchange of travelers between the two nations will only strengthen ties and encourage further cooperation in the future.”

With a fleet of seven Airbus 320 airplanes, MAI currently operates seven international routes, flying from Yangon to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Gaya, Guangzhou, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

The carrier is now seeking to expand its routes to Korea and Japan, targeting wealthy travelers and vacationers. It will also tend to corporate clients as more and more Korean and Japanese companies set up manufacturing plants in Myanmar, according to Kim.

“We will soon buy larger airplanes such as Airbus 330 planes, to fly beyond Southeast Asia. We highly value the Korean and Japanese markets,” the manager said. “We already signed a code sharing program and have a partnership agreement with Korean Air since we would like to grow together with Korea’s national carrier, rather than competing head-on with it,” the manager said. “We would like to see Japanese travelers come to Incheon International Airport via Korean Air then fly with us to Yangon.”

He then stressed that MAI will not compete purely on prices, saying that it will price air tickets at about 80 to 85 percent of Korean Air’s seats. “Those who can afford high-priced seats and are loyal to Korean Air will use Korea’s flagship carrier. But young travelers traveling in groups to Myanmar will likely fly with us. Since our passenger demographics differ from Korean Air’s, we would like to cooperate with them rather than compete against them.”

When asked about MAI’s safety records, Kim said that the carrier has been strictly following international safety standards. “I know many Korean passengers are concerned about airlines based in Southeast Asia, thinking that they are of lower-quality. But the airlines in question have mostly been low-cost carriers. We, on the other hand, are a national carrier and always abide by stringent safety rules. Travelers that fly with us will be safe.”

The manager said MAI has been certified by the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program. The IATA stands for the International Air Transport Association.

To improve its personnel training, MAI has reached out to foreign airline companies for assistance.

“We have been operating charter flights since January this year between Incheon and Yangon without any safety problems,” he said. “Air France has been training our engineers, maintenance technicians and other ground personnel. Our pilots and flight attendants have been trained under Malaysian Airlines. I think it would further enhance our quality if Korean Air helps train our ground and cabin crews. Doing this, business ties between the two carriers will be further strengthened.”

About Danny Kim

Kim has been involved in the airline industry for the past 16 years. Prior to joining MAI earlier this year, he served as an Incheon Airport manager for Vietnam Airlines for nine years. Kim had also served as a cargo manager for China Northern Airlines before the carrier was acquired by China Southern Airlines in 2003.

He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in business administration from Korea Aerospace University.


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