Thai AirAsia drops Nay Pyi Taw service

Thai AirAsia (TAA) has pulled out of the route linking the Thai and Myanmar capitals just one month after launch due to subdued travel demand.

The no-frills carrier decided to suspend its daily Bangkok-Nay Pyi Taw service this past Thursday after it became apparent that demand was too sparse to sustain operations, confirming its earlier suspicions about the route’s potential.

TAA saw only its 180-seat A320 jet filled to capacity just ahead of the start of the 27th SEA Games, Southeast Asia’s largest sports event, which was hosted by Myanmar this year.

After that bright start, some flights had only 10 seats occupied, said TAA sources.

Most passengers on the service, which was launched on Nov 28, were Thai athletes, coaches and supporters including the National Olympic Committee of Thailand as well as journalists covering the SEA Games.

TAA executives told the Bangkok Post the airline’s hope that the sports event would act as a catalyst to spur travel demand, especially among leisure travellers, had failed to materialise.

Nay Pyi Taw has so far had little to offer to leisure travellers, the key clientele of low-cost carriers (LCCs) in terms of both tourist attractions and infrastructure, sources said.

Business travellers appear to be the main market for Nay Pyi Taw and the commercial capital Yangon.

TAA’s departure means there is no longer an LCC serving the Bangkok-Nay Pyi Taw route, leaving the full-service airline Bangkok Airways as the sole operator between the two capitals.

Bangkok Airways operates five flights a week between Bangkok and Nay Pyi Taw on an ATR-72 turboprop aircraft with 70 seats.

It offered a supplementary high-capacity service on the route using an Airbus 319 jetliner with 138 seats, all in economy, for the duration of the SEA Games, with four flights a week to cash in on temporary strong demand.

TAA is ramping up its Bangkok-Yangon service from 21 flights a week to 28 from Jan 24.

The budget carrier is also operating a daily flight from its Don Mueang airport base to Mandalay, the other Myanmar city it serves.

Meanwhile, TAA will increase its Bangkok-Siem Reap flight frequency to 14 a week from 10 in response to demand.

It launched a daily service on Oct 1 after Cambodian authorities ended Bangkok Airways’ 16-year monopoly.