While most fleet expansion plans in Southeast Asia have come to a standstill, privately-owned carrier Myanmar Airways International (MAI) is bucking trends with the anticipated deliveries of three additional Embraer E190 jets. However, unfair competition resulting from protectionist policies continue to distort the market. MAI chief executive Saravanan Ramasamy told AIN the airline “is fighting for fair business practices,” noting Myanmar continues to exhibit “preferential treatment to certain local operators,” creating unfair market competition and hindering economic development.
MAI has overcome its disadvantages by remaining agile during the pandemic, adapting to market changes and lengthy border closures by launching relief, charter, and cargo flights. With the recent announcements of successful Covid-19 vaccination trials, Ramasamy said he hopes to position MAI as the carrier of choice for distributing vaccines in the domestic and regional markets.
“For now, Myanmar is effectively shut to both domestic and international traffic; however, being private and small allows MAI to remain relatively nimble,” he explained, adding that aircraft deliveries continue to require a certain level of coordination amid revolving pandemic restrictions.
MAI’s flexibility has paid dividends with the anticipated delivery of its second E190 around December 15, a third in early next year, and a fourth by mid-year. Early 2021 will also see the carrier take delivery of two more Airbus A320-family jets. The mixed fleet compliments that of MAI’s sister carrier, Air KBZ, which operates eight ATR 72-600s on domestic routes. Ramasamy said ATR operations were “here to stay” given the turboprop’s ability to operate from airfields challenged by runway length, limited infrastructure, and mountainous terrain.
“Fourteen of the country’s 26 operational airports are unable to support regional jets,” he noted. “In these cases, the turboprop has become a necessity in connecting communities.”
Meanwhile, the E190 will operate on newly-launched, longer-range domestic routes.
“With a 98-seats layout, the E190 also has more capacity than Air KBZ’s fleet of ATR 72-600s, meaning the airline can cater to increased passenger demand,” he noted. “The E190 is also equipped with business-class seating to cater to corporate travelers.”