A Complete List of Myanmar Airlines
A brief guide to the domestic airlines in Myanmar (Burma) and a complete comparison of Air Bagan, Asian Wings Airways, Air KBZ, Air Mandalay, Myanma Airways, Yangon Airways, Golden Myanmar Airways and MAI Myanmar Airways International.
Many ask “What is the best airline in Myanmar?” or “What is the safest airline in Myanmar?” As the country emerges as a tourist hotspot, these concerns are very relevant. Navigating the flights of domestic airlines may be more challenging than expected. This guide will provide an introduction and how to on traveling by air in Myanmar.
Myanmar has several small domestic airlines that fly similar routes (and usually during similar times). For the most part, they are very comparable in cost, equipment, quality, service, food, and scheduling. I personally flew three of them and will note my experience.
Air Bagan, the very first private airline in Myanmar 100% owned by Myanmar national, was established in 2004 and has a small fleet of 5 aircrafts, one Fokker-100 , two ATR-72 and two ATR-42 turbo-props. At present, Air Bagan is operating 19 domestic destinations and a regional charter flight to Chiang Mai with (One) ATR-42, (Three) ATR-72.
Although the airline in under sanctioned list from the West, Sky Trax has recommended as Three Star Airline due to best services proving airline in Myanmar as chosen by customers. Air Bagan is currently operating average of 25 sectors daily serving 20 major domestic destinations from Yangon and 5 minor domestic destinations from MDL as well as twice a week regional service to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Expectations are low for most domestic airlines so their slogan “Flying Beyond Expectation” may actually be accurate. KBZ stands for Kanbawza Bank, which is the private bank that owns the chain (imagine flying Air BOA?). This is one of the newer airlines started in 2011. They currently fly to 15 domestic destinations with their tiny fleet of three ATR 72-500.
Their fleet is also currently comprised of five ATR 72-500 and three ATR 72-600 aircrafts. Plans are already underway for deploying more aircrafts in order to facilitate the expansion. The aircrafts are maintained with the AIR KBZ maintenance facility in Yangon.
Asian Wings Airways
Another of the newer airlines, their motto is to “Fly Beyond your dreams”. They fly to 22 domestic destinations with their fleet of three ATR 72-500s and an Airbus A321-100.
An investment from Air Nippon in 2013 should strengthen the brand. They also have a rewards club, but tourists won’t get much use out of it until they merge with another program.
We flew Asian Wings from Heho to Mandalay and then to Yangon on a ATR 72-500. The meal was comparably good and was even served on a tray!
Air Mandalay Limited is a private joint venture company that was incorporated on 6th October 1994 to operate as Myanmar’s first privately owned airline and support the country’s tourism industry.
The airline, based in Yangon, has since established itself as a carrier of high standards with a wide domestic network and one regional link, to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It operates to all of Myanmar’s main tourist destinations and commercial hubs.
The airline also offers air charter services to destinations both within the country and regionally.
This airline went the direct route when choosing their motto “Safety, Reliability & Comfort”. This is the first domestic airline of Myanmar founded in 1994. Their fleet currently comprised of two ATR-72-212s and one ATR 42-320 flies to 11 destinations. No incidents to date.
We flew on their flight from Yangon to Bagan via Heho and Mandalay. Not much to comment on except that the layovers were surprisingly efficient. Food was very basic.
Myanmar National Airlines
Myanmar National Airlines is the national flag carrier of Myanmar and has the most extensive route network within the country. The airline has been in existence for over 65 years and it is one of the oldest and most experienced airlines in Asia.
This airline does not have a motto and why would they need one when they are the official state owned airline? Founded in 1948, Myanma was previously known as Burma Airways. They are comparatively large with a mixed fleet twelve planes comprised of seven types of aircrafts (mostly ATR models).
Major change is underway as it launched its new domestic service in 2014 with fixed schedules, state of the art Reservations and Airport Systems, a brand new Premium Economy on its Embracer 190 aircraft and upgraded food and inflight service throughout its fleet. In 2015 the Myanmar National Airlines starts to fly International again after a break of many years providing regional jet services to neighbouring countries. This will allow Myanmar people and tourist alike to stretch their wings alongside them and for them to welcome many more visitors to the country.
Later in 2015 the airline is welcoming its brand new Boeing 737 aircraft into its fleet. This will allow them to expand out international network and offer an even better experience for their customers.
Yangon Airways was established in October 1996 as a domestic airline in a joint venture between Myanma Airways, the state-owned national airline and Krong-Sombat Co., of Thailand. In October 1997, MHE-Mayflower Co., acquired Krong-Sombat’s shares in Yangon Airways and since then the airline has evolved into a principal domestic airline operating scheduled and charter services from Yangon to 13 prime commercial and tourist destinations in Myanmar.
We flew with Yangon from Mandalay to Heho on an ATR 212. This was a short direct flight with not much out of the ordinary besides a delay before take off. They offered a small croissant snack.
Golden Myanmar Airlines
Golden Myanmar Airlines is the first Myanmar Aviation Public Company established in July 2012, GMA has grown to be Myanmar’s leading domestic and international low cost carrier.
This is the budget airline of Myanmar stating “every day we do is for your satisfaction,” whatever that means. They fly internationally with two Airbus A320s as well as between Mandalay and Yangon, with more domestic routes planned.
Myanmar Airways International (MAI)
Myanmar Airways International (MAI), was established in August 1993, as a joint venture between Myanma Airways and Singapore based company. Effective from January 2014, MAI becomes a complete member of KBZ Group – a Myanmar National owned private company.
MAI flies schedule flights between Yangon and Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Gaya, Guangzhou, Seoul and Mandalay – Gaya – Mandalay. MAI started its charter flight to Korea and Japan in 2013.
Since 1993, MAI has a record of 100% safety and accident free in aviation history. Recently, MAI has been awarded “2014 ASEAN BUSINESS AWARDS” as the National Winner (Myanmar) for Most Admired ASEAN Enterprise, ASEAN Centricity by ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC).
MAI operates with seven Airbus A320s. With these modern Aircrafts, they are able to deliver the most comfortable and enjoyable flying experience available today, no matter which class you travel with. Their Airbus A320s are upgraded with new luxurious seats now and also they offer business class seatings as well as economy class.
Routes and Schedules
Most Myanmar tourist destinations are accessible by plane. One thing to pay attention to when booking is how many layovers each route has as this can add a significant amount of time to the travel.
Most (if not all) of the airlines operate as commuter planes and circle around the main tourist destinations Yangon, Heho, Mandalay, and Bagan. Some may skip a city or fly a different direction, so make sure you know the route and not just the destination.
The layovers are quite efficient with wheels up around 20 minutes after landing.
As the domestic airlines are quite small, most routes are only available once a day or less. From Yangon, they usually leave in the morning and come back in the afternoon.
Expect and plan for some delays during your travel. You may notice many flights are scheduled to depart at the same time which is especially questionable at small airports with one runway.
Most airlines don’t yet offer online booking, so you have to book locally. Electronic ticketing isn’t really used, so you also have to plan on getting an airline issued ticket. There are several ways to book the flights locally.
Hotel – Possibly the easiest and most convenient option, you can explain your travel plans with your hotel concierge who can then research and review the options. They can also purchase on your behalf for a small commission.
Travel Agent – Another option is to contact a travel agent, but I would only consider this if your hotel is unable to help.
Plan and Purchase – You can do the research yourself by reviewing the schedules online then confirming with the airline office with a phone call. You will need to go to the office or have it sent to you to make payment and purchase the ticket.
Tip: If you know your travel plan, you can purchase your tickets at the airport when you arrive in Myanmar. You may need to go to the domestic terminal if arriving in the international terminal. This will allow you to review many different options and purchase immediately once you make the decision.
Tickets are also quoted and paid for in USD. I tried paying in Myanmar Kyat but had to exchange the currency BACK to USD to purchase the ticket.
When to Book
Usually a day in advance is enough time to book a flight. Even if one airline is sold out which is unlikely, there are other carriers running the major routes. If it is a holiday or festival, book a few days in advance.