OFF INTO THE WILD WET YONDER How does this...
Travel Options Continue to Expand in ASEAN Region
While some ASEAN region airlines have experienced horrible losses due to crashes and competition over the past few years, others seem to be faring quite well and are actively expanding routes. Many of these airlines have added more scheduled flights around Southeast Asia plus new direct flights further afield. Let’s take a look at those who have made headlines in the past month:
State owned Myanmar National Airlines (MNA) has just introduced a new international route connecting Yangon (RGN) to Hong Kong (HKG), as of December 4th. This direct flight—the airline’s second international destination—will be offered three to four times per week.
Back in August, MNA began offering international flights after a two decade lull, by launching their first international route (servicing Singapore). It looks like they will continue to add a few more destinations to their list by next month, according to Taiwan-based Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). In late January Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport will see direct flights from MNA on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday—this is in addition to flights from Myanmar’s other flagship carrier—Myanmar Airways International. Chiang Mai, Thailand is also slated to be added as a regional destination.
While Thai Airways has faced no shortage of troubles, Thai AirAsia has been expanding routes and has now targeted Thailand’s U-Tapao International Airport (UTP) as a new regional hub. This airport is right on the doorstep of Pattaya and has also served for years as an airfield for the Royal Thai Navy.
Although now re-branded as an international airport, U-Tapao was constructed and used by the U.S. military as a regional air base, particularly for bombing runs, during the Vietnam war. Now, in a push to develop U-Tapao more for civilian access, Thai AirAsia has launched multiple domestic flights to northern Thailand (Chiang Mai and Udon Thani) and internationally (Macau and Singapore). By the end of this month there are said to be a total of 46 AirAsia flights per week servicing U-Tapao. Further plans are in the works to allow more international flights to service this airport given the overall influx of tourists heading to Pattaya.
Things are looking good since the Philippines was taken off the EU’s aviation blacklist. New Zealand is now seeing scheduled Philippine Airline (PAL) flights from Manila to Auckland (AKL) four times per week. Service began on December 2nd, with all flights on this route stopping over in Cairns, Australia. In order to reduce travel time, the airline is already talking about changing this to a non-stop flight, although that might not happen for another year or two.
In 2016 the airline also plans to begin long haul flights from Cebu to Los Angeles, as well as offering non-stop flights on existing routes to New York and Toronto.
Looking towards the Middle East, Jeddah and Kuwait with both be added as destinations as early as next month. PAL currently offers flights to several other locations in the region: Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Dubai (their busiest Middle East route).