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Barriers to Bagan flights for Thai firm

Bangkok Airways is exploring adding Bagan and Myeik to its list of Myanmar destinations. But the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) says there are no immediate plans to open up more airports to Thai firms, a move that would likely anger local airlines.

The Thai carrier is conducting a feasibility study into establishing routes from Chiang Mai to Bagan and Bangkok to Myeik, a spokesperson for the company told The Myanmar Times.

He could not comment on how long the study would take, but said that the aim was to add the routes in the next year or two.

Tasara Taksinapan from the firm’s media relations department said the company had already been in touch with Myanmar authorities regarding the new destinations.

Bangkok Airways already flies to Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw – Myanmar’s only international airports – from Bangkok. The carrier also flies to Yangon and Mandalay from Chiang Mai.

But a bilateral agreement between Myanmar and Thailand dictates which routes Thai firms can fly, and does not allow them to fly to domestic airports, said DCA executive engineer U Aung Soe Moe. There are no plans to amend the agreement, he added.

Although Myanmar is liberalising its air transport sector as part of an open skies agreement between the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), it has only opened up its international airports to foreign carriers, excluding them from domestic airports.

Local airlines are already concerned about competition from other ASEAN firms on routes from Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. Allowing foreign carriers to land at airports like Bagan would pose a grave threat to the country’s fledgling airline industry, industry executives have said.

“If we allowed [foreign carriers to land at] airports like Bagan or Myeik, the local airlines will be very angry,” said U Aung Soe Moe.

The bilateral agreement with Thailand does have a clause that allows the government to make exemptions in certain circumstances – for instance if it wants to promote a certain region, U Aung Soe Moe said. Thai budget carrier Nok Air was allowed to operate flights to Mawlamyine under such an exemption, he added.

But the aim of ASEAN open skies is to eventually allow all carriers full access to each other’s markets, with some countries pushing for this to happen by 2020. Bangkok Airways’ feasibility study could make sense “because no one knows what will happen in the next few years,” U Aung Soe Moe said.

 

Source: Myanmar Times

 

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