HK carrier increases flights with Yangon
IN late October, Cathay Dragon will scale up the traffic capacity between Yangon and Hong Kong by an extra 60 percent. The flights target both Myanmar travellers who use Hong Kong as a transit hub for Northeast Asia and other continents as well as business travellers who move around in the region.
Currently, the carrier, formerly Dragonair, operates a daily flight from Yangon to Hong Kong. Starting from October 29, it will serve an additional 4 flights per week, operating on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The new flights depart Hong Kong at 2:25pm and arrive in Yangon at 4:20pm. The return flight departs Yangon at 5:20pm, arriving in Hong Kong at 9:45pm, with a flying time of just 2.45 hours.
Cathay Dragon is the regional carrier of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Group, the city’s flagship carrier. The group has a long history with Myanmar, dating back to almost a century ago.
“In the 1940s, Yangon was actually one of the very first routes served by Cathay Pacific!” Nicholas Bury, the airline’s country manager in Myanmar, said.
Market demand Mr Bury told The Myanmar Times that there are two reasons leading to the addition of flights.
“Firstly, the new flights allow us to better serve our customers flying between Hong Kong and Myanmar. In particular, our frequent flyers will enjoy the new departure and arrival times, which suit both day trips and longer visits,” he said.
The additional flights provide passengers a much shorter connecting time to a wide range of destinations within the Cathay Pacific network through its Hong Kong hub. This includes Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, all 13 of Cathay’s European destinations, including London, Paris, Rome and Madrid, and San Francisco in the US.
“This will strengthen Cathay Pacific’s current position as the largest carrier by number of passengers per year to the US from Myanmar and really put us on the map in terms as a carrier of choice on the other key longhaul routes too,” Mr Bury noted.
The flight services target both tourists and business customers. Up to 40pc of the traffic in the route derives from passengers flying from Myanmar’s commercial hub and transiting in Hong Kong to travel to other destinations.
Cathay, which is the airline sponsor for the British Chamber of Commerce Myanmar, expects the new flights to be supported by inbound tourists from Europe, as well as outbound business travellers from Yangon to Europe as well as North America. The demand to Northeast Asia – Japan and South Korea – is also on the rise for both inbound and outbound traffic. The carrier seeks to tap into the businesses and professionals who shuttle around the region.
‘With these new flights, Cathay Dragon has added an additional 60pc capacity between Myanmar and Hong Kong. This is a big investment, and a strong indication that we have confidence in the growth potential in the Myanmar market.’
Nicholas Bury Country manager Cathay Pacific Airways
Optimism when others faltered Cathay’s increased engagement with Myanmar’s commercial capital comes at a time when others seem to have thrown in the towel.
In May this year, Hong Kong budget airline HK Express suspended flight services between Hong Kong and Yangon to “better optimise utilisation of the airline’s resources”, according to the airline’s spokesperson.
In September 2016, the budget airline also operated flights between Mandalay and Hong Kong for two months, but halted the operations in late October because of issues with fuel quality at Mandalay airport, Department of Civil Aviation (NCA) officials told The Myanmar Times.
Department of Civil Aviation director of air transport U Ne Win said that HK Express had informed the DCA it was suspending operations to Mandalay because of problems with fuel quality at Mandalay’s airport.
In contrast, the sister airline of Cathay Pacific Airways appeared to have weathered the storm.
Information provided by Cathay Dragon revealed that the load factor of its current Yangon-HK flights has held steady this year at around 75-80 percent. This is “a strong performance in the current environment”, according to Mr Bury.
“With these new flights, Cathay Dragon has added an additional 60pc capacity between Myanmar and Hong Kong. This is a big investment, and a strong indication that we have confidence in the growth potential in the Myanmar market,” he explained.
Only Cathay and Myanmar National Airlines (MNA) operate direct flights between the two cities. MNA flights operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Singapore, another city popular among travellers in Myanmar, has several airlines serving nonstop flights: Jetstar, Scoot, Singapore Airlines, MNA and Myanmar Airways International (MAI).
Cathay Dragon is the regional carrier of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Group, which has a long history with Myanmar, dating back to the 1940s.