Bangkok Airways Suspends Most Flights to Myanmar as Virus Hits Air Travel

By The Irrawaddy 12 March 2020

Bangkok Airways will suspend most flights between Thailand and Myanmar for seven months from March 29 amid the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement posted on its website. The Thai airline has also canceled certain flights to Cambodia, Vietnam, India and the Maldives for varying periods.

In the statement released last Friday, the carrier said, “Bangkok Airways Public Company Limited announces a decrease in flight frequency as well as flight termination on certain domestic and international routes to be in line with current passenger demand. This also follows the airline’s expense reduction plans which were launched earlier this month due to the global economic slowdown combined with the COVID-19 epidemic.”

More than 119,000 people have been infected worldwide by the COVID-19 coronavirus, which emerged in China in December, and more than 4,200 have died.

The head of the World Heath Organization (WHO) on Wednesday announced that “COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the agency’s daily briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

Flights on seven of Bangkok Airways’ domestic routes, including Bangkok-Chiang Mai-Bangkok, have been canceled from March 10-28. Flights on five other domestic flights in Thailand will be suspended until Oct. 24.

Three routes will be suspended from May 1 to Oct. 24, including Bangkok-Chiang Mai flights.

The airline said that from March 29 to Oct. 24, nine international routes would be suspended, including flights from Bangkok to Yangon, Naypyitaw and Mandalay.

Flights from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Mumbai, India; and Danang, Vietnam have been canceled until March 28.

Bangkok Airways’ Chiang Mai-Yangon and Chiang Mai-Mandalay routes were not mentioned in the announcement, but in December the airline reduced the frequency of Chiang Mai-Yangon flights to four days a week from seven.

Other carriers flying from Yangon to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, such as Myanmar National Airlines (MNA) and AirAsia, have not yet canceled any flights, according to the carriers and ticket agents.

MNA flies to Thailand as well as Japan, India, Singapore and South Korea.

MNA director U Than Tun told The Irrawaddy that while the carrier had been affected economically by the global pandemic, it was maintaining all its flights except for those on the Yangon-Hong Kong route, which were canceled this month.

“We don’t have a plan to suspend international routes, except to Hong Kong. It [the Yangon-Hong Kong route] is suspended until the end of April. We have been affected; we have started cutting costs, but are not reducing the number of our employees yet,” he said.

Last Wednesday, Korean Air—a major South Korean airline—announced it was suspending direct flights to Yangon from Incheon International Airport near Seoul from March 5 to April 25 due to the rapid spread of coronavirus in South Korea.

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