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Myanmar National Airlines faces challenges as bold international expansion begins with Singapore


Myanmar National Airlines (MNA) plans to launch services on the highly competitive Yangon-Singapore route in Aug-2015 as it starts to implement an ambitious international expansion plan. The newly rebranded government-owned carrier took delivery of the first of 10 737-800s in Jun-2015 and plans to operate five international routes by early 2016 as it grows its new narrowbody fleet.

But the airline faces huge challenges as it operates outside the domestic market for the first time in two decades. The Yangon-Singapore market is already experiencing overcapacity and Myanmar-based carriers have struggled to compete against their Singaporean competitors, forcing cutbacks at Myanmar Airways International (MAI) and the withdrawal of Golden Myanmar Airways.

MNA will inevitably face the same challenges in Singapore as other Burmese carriers, particularly given its brand is an unknown in the international market. North Asia, which MNA plans to enter in the coming months, will also be a challenging market.

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Understanding the Asia Pacific growth opportunities: Tony Fernandes explains the market

No-one doubts that Asia will become the dominant world aviation market over coming decades. North America and its airlines will necessarily be major beneficiaries of that expansion. For the time being however, the US-China market is only one third the size of US-UK’s and much lower yielding; Asia’s two biggest markets, China and Japan combined are still smaller than the UK market. But China-US capacity will double in the two years to Jul-2017, a trajectory that is likely to continue.
Meanwhile the nature of the Asian aviation markets has evolved greatly over the period of a decade. In Southeast Asia, nearly two thirds of all airline seats are on low-cost airlines, none of which existed a decade ago, implying a highly price sensitive underlying market.

In North Asia, this low-cost, price sensitive phenomenon is starting to take hold as well, albeit from a much lower market share. But it is growing fast, with many new entrants.

To understand fully how these forces will influence Asian consumer demand, we hear from Malaysia based Tony Fernandes, the man who sparked the LCC revolution in Asia and whose airline, AirAsia, has now carried 50 million passengers. In doing so, he has effectively deregulated international aviation across much of Asia.
The remarkable airline, with 9 operating entities, including cross border joint ventures in various countries, also includes three long-haul low-cost operators.

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