Burmese Travelers Urged to Leave Time for Bangkok Flights

By Soe Sandar Oo 10 January 2014

RANGOON — A Burmese travel and tour company has joined a number of international airlines in sending travel alerts to customers who need to catch flights in Bangkok on Monday, when anti-government protesters hope to block major roads in the Thai capital, although Bangkok Airways says it expect no major disruptions.

More than 18 flights run daily between Bangkok and Rangoon, and they are scheduled to depart as usual, but travelers have been urged to leave plenty of time to reach the airports in Bangkok on Monday, as protesters have threatened to block 20 main roads starting that day.

British Airways reportedly asked Rangoon-based Columbus Travels and Tours to alert its customers about the threat of long road delays.

“Bangkok has very heavy traffic normally, so if a strike happens travelers will have a difficult time reaching the airport on time. Most international airline offices have issued a notice to their customers,” Khine Su, a spokeswoman for the travel and tour company, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“Most tourists who booked flights [to Bangkok] on Jan. 13 have shifted their travel dates, taking more time in Myanmar, but official and businesspeople do not care about the strike and will go as always,” she added.

The anti-government protests began in Bangkok in November after the Thai government attempted to force through a political amnesty bill that would have allowed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return from a self-imposed exile without serving time in prison.

Protesters plan to “shut down” the capital starting Monday, ahead of an election scheduled for Feb. 2, and are calling on the current caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra—Thaksin’s sister—to step down.

A spokesperson at Bangkok Airways said the airline had not sent out alerts to travelers with flights booked for Monday, adding that flights would continue normally despite demonstrations.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says the two international airports in Bangkok—Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang—as well as all other international and domestic airports throughout the country are open and operating normally.

If issues arise, the TAT says airlines have made arrangements to open check-in desks up to four hours before departures to allow earlier check-ins, although travelers have been advised to inquire with airlines directly for further information.

Myanmar Airways International (MAI) says it received no instructions from the Burma Embassy in Thailand to send notifications about potential travel issues to its airline agents or customers.

“The tour bookings are visible down, but businesspeople have booked flights for that date [Monday] and will go according to their schedules without changing,” Aye Mya Thar, an official with the Burmese flag carrier, told The Irrawaddy.

The Burma Embassy of Thailand released a message earlier this week urging Burmese nationals to take precautions and avoid protests or political gatherings if they find themselves in Thailand over the coming days.

“Burmese people in Thailand are urged not to get involved in any mass protest and to keep themselves away from rally sites in order to maintain the Thailand-Myanmar good friendship status; for their security; and to avoid issues that would affect the goodwill between the two countries,” the notice said.

Agents at Columbus Travels and Tours, Myanmar Airways International and Rangoon-based Sunflower travel and tour company said they believed more tourists would choose to come to Burma rather than Thailand amid the ongoing political unrest in Bangkok.