RANGOON — Burmese airline Air Kanbawza (Air KBZ) plans to launch its first international routes later this year, to Mae Sot and Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, a senior airline official says.
Air KBZ will operate a Rangoon-Chiang Mai flight four times weekly starting Nov. 1, Air KBZ general manager Myat Thu told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. He said the airline would sign a code sharing agreement with Mann Yadanarpon Airlines, another Burmese carrier, allowing both to sell tickets for the same flight.
Chiang Mai has a large Burmese population and receives many visitors from Burma. Currently, only one Burmese airline, Air Bagan, owned by tycoon Tay Za, services a flight to the city from Rangoon.
Ticket prices for the KBZ flights have not yet been confirmed, the airline’s general manager said.
Air KBZ will launch the Rangoon-Mae Sot route five days weekly, starting Oct. 27, the general manager added. He said the airline would cooperate with Thai budget carrier Nok Air, which recently stopped servicing the same route on its own. No other Burmese airline currently flies to Mae Sot, a border town where many Burmese migrants live.
It is possible to travel overland by bus from the border town to Rangoon via Myawaddy in Karen State. However, roads remain in poor condition and the trip takes many hours.
“Many Burmese travel back to Rangoon from Mae Sot every day. There is a big market,” the general manager said.
Air KBZ will operate both routes with 68-seat ATR- 72 aircrafts. The airline plans to buy one new aircraft this month and another in January next year. It currently operates 16 domestic routes with six aircrafts.
The owner of Air KBZ is Kanbawza Bank, part of the business empire of tycoon Aung Ko Win. The bank also owns an 80 percent stake in Myanmar Airways International (MAI), the country’s international flag carrier.
In February, Mann Yadanarpon became the latest operational entry into Burma’s increasingly crowded domestic airline industry. The airline currently offers commercial flights to Rangoon, Mandalay, Nyaung U, Heho, Kengtung, Tachileik and Myitkyina. The Mandalay-based carrier became Burma’s eighth domestic airline in operation.