YANGON -- The number of carriers operating international flights to and from Myanmar has doubled in two years, as the country reinforces efforts to strengthen its economic ties overseas by encouraging foreign investment.
Air India has recently launched a direct service between Yangon and Bodhgaya, in northeastern India. The carrier, which already operates flights between Yangon and Kolkata, India, decided to expand its service with the expectation demand for flights connecting Myanmar and northeastern India would grow. Cross-border trade between the two countries has been rising.
Bodhgaya is a holy site for Buddhists as it was where Gautama Buddha attained supreme enlightenment. It is anticipated a number of pilgrim tourists from Myanmar, where a majority of the population is Buddhist, will be keen to visit the place.
Indonesia's flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia announced on Nov. 25 plans to share flights between Jakarta and Yangon with Myanmar Airways International (MAI), starting possibly later this month subject to government approvals. The flights will go via Singapore or Bangkok, Thailand.
According to reports in an Indonesian newspaper, about 6,000 passengers per month flew between Myanmar and Indonesia in 2014, 30% more than last year. The two airlines are eager to draw surging travelers on business trips.
Under the military regime most foreign carriers did not have a direct service to Myanmar and those that did were based in Singapore and Thailand. However, that's all changed as airlines start to ramp up their flights to the Southeast Asian nation. At the same time, MAI is operating more international services with flights to and from Osaka, Japan, and South Korea starting in autumn. It plans to launch flights to and from the United Arab Emirates next year.
Currently, about 30 airlines fly in and out of Myanmar, more than double the 14 carriers in 2012. Japan's All Nippon Airways started flights between Narita Airport and Yangon two years ago.
Airlines are now hoping to build up their services to Myanmar cities other than Yangon. International airports in Naypyitaw, the country's capital and Mandalay, Myanmar's second biggest city, still have a few international departures and arrivals. Expansion of flights to and from China, which is relatively close, is expected.
To prepare for the increase in flights, a business consortium, including Japanese trading houses Mitsubishi Corp. and Jalux, is planning to renovate the airport in Mandalay.
The number of foreign tourists to Myanmar for the fiscal year ended in March 2014 increased to about 2.24 million, 70% more than fiscal 2012. The Myanmar government hopes to push visitor numbers up to five million in 2015.