YANGON, 4 February 2015: The first phase of Yangon International Airport’s new terminal building should be completed by the end of the year, airport officials claim, as the present facilities creek under the strain of tourism success.
Once the new building is fully operational, the current international terminal will be used for domestic arrivals and departures. Check-in and baggage collection at the domestic terminal is critically congested. Service and processing is so poor it threatens the travel experience, possibly to the point where travellers will not want to return to the country until it is fixed.
Myanmar Times news agency quoted an airport manager Pioneer Aerodrome Services’ chief operating officer Sulaiman Zainul Abidin as saying the upgrade was critical to resolve severe passenger congestion.
He added: “Most of the growth comes from international traffic coming in…unfortunately the infrastructure is not able to keep up with this growth.”
However, the main inconvenience for international travellers is more likely to occur when transferring to and from domestic flights. The domestic terminal is a short walk from the main terminal, along airport driveway, but it is a transfer that will take travellers back 20 years in terms of facilities.
TTR Weekly’s editor, Don Ross, checked the airport out, first hand, during an unscheduled overnight stay at Seasons Airport Hotel, courtesy of a Golden Myanmar Airways technical hitch.
He reports: “The entire check-in process at the domesti terminal is manual. Old-fashioned scales are used to weight each bag, a task that requires a porter to shout a weight total to the airline staff checking in passengers.”
“There are no baggage conveyor belts. Bags and passengers enter the domestic terminal from flights through the same door causing confusion and delays during peak traffic hours.”
“In the main international terminal, congestion is at its worst at the immigration counters. It takes 30 to 40 minutes to the clear immigration. There are queues at airline check-in counters but they are manageable.”
“The entire airport complex is almost entirely surrounded by a construction site. Parking areas are being built and will probably be completed within a month. The new terminal building, airline offices and support facilities are under construction.”
“Dust pollution is a problem from construction on land close by. Even the Seasons Hotel, just across the road from airport, is covered in dust, giving it a very run-down appearance. Heavy road traffic and the lack of street-lights make crossing the road between airport hotel and the terminal building risky for pedestrians.”
“The airport experience at Yangon is unsatisfactory for passengers and will remain so until the new terminal is fully open. Recommendation: Skip Yangon, use Mandalay as the airport gateway if you are travelling north of Yangon and intend to visit Bagan.”
Once the new terminal building at Yangon opens it will be able to serve 6 million passengers. That will be adequate for up to three years. High growth rates of 26% in 2013 and 20% in 2014 will push tourist arrivals close to 6 million by 2020.
Yangon International Airport processed over 4 million passengers last year against an official capacity of 2.7 million.
The new terminal project is managed by Yangon Aerodromes, which in turn is supervised by Pioneer Aerodrome Services, part of the Asia World conglomerate. Pioneer is the investor and the manager of the existing airport.
It won a tender in August 2013 to build the project, competing against several regional firms.
Source: TTR Weekly