Myanmar International AirlineBurma International Airline
The international aviation industry in Myanmar is suffering from increasing pain. Were the capacities added too quickly?
Asia's airlines are continuing to add extra capacities to Myanmar, leveraging the growth seen in the first half of 2012, following the rapid opening of the markets, with the lifting of two decade-long embargo. Myanmar's international markets will top 110,000 international offices per week in January 2014, an approximate 40% rise over Jan-2012 and almost 130% over Apr-2012, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won groundbreaking polls.
However, so far the extra capacities have surpassed demands. Myanmar's international volume of passengers has increased by about 70% in the last two years - an impressing number, but not enough to keep pace with the increase in capacities. This means that occupancy rates to and from Myanmar are well below the overall averages.
Almost all of the 14 international airlines that flew to Myanmar before Apr-2012 experienced a decline in capacity utilization on their Myanmar flights last year. Also the nine international airlines that have started and maintained flights to Myanmar since the opening of the airspace have so far registered lower capacity utilization rates - generally in the region of 50% to 70%.
Myanmar has enormous growth potentials and the extra capacities will ultimately be used up. However, at the moment the current situation in the markets is provocative and uneconomical. Twenty-three international airlines now serving Myanmar are relying on long-term prospects. It is the third in a string of Myanmar reporting on the local markets.
It analyzes the entire international markets, while the first focuses on the Myanmar-Thailand and the second on the Myanmar-Singapore area. Myanmar-Thailand and Myanmar-Singapore both recorded strong increase in passengers, but even higher increase in capacities, which led to a decrease in workload. Myanmar is by far the biggest international country in the country.
The first tranche of this run reports that around 800,000 air travelers took off between Myanmar and Thailand in the first three quarters of 2013, an increase of around 24% over the previous year. Thailand handled 44% of the 1.8 million passenger movements to and from Myanmar in the first three quarter of 2013.
With some 358,000 air travelers in the first three quarters of 2013, Thai Airways is the biggest airline group on Myanmar's international airport markets, holding a 20% stake. This group, which will include the Thai Myanmar office, will hold over 13% of international capacities in Myanmar in January 2014.
With the inclusion of the LCC subsidiary Nok, the Thai Airways Group will have a 19% stake in the airport's capacities in January 2014. In the first three quarters of 2013, the Myanmar-Singapore passenger volume grew by 28% to 363,000. As a result, the country has a 20% stake in all international transport to and from Myanmar. After Thai Airways and AirAsia, Singapore Airlines is the third biggest airline in Myanmar's international air transport markets, with 153,000 passenger movements in the first three quarters 2013.
SIA, which includes the SilkAir company, thus holds an 8% stake. The SIA Group will hold a stake of around 6% in January 2014 on a seating-capacity-related basis. Taking into account the low-cost airline Tigerair, which commenced flights to Yangon in October 2013, the SIA Group' s total capacities account for around 9%. The fast-growing Bangkok Airways airline in Myanmar will continue to hold a 9% stake in Myanmar's air cargo handling capacities in January 2014.
Myanmar's third biggest international airport is Malaysia, which recorded 29% increased travel to 223,000 in the first three quarters 2013. Malaysia thus has a 12% stake in the overall brand name. The only large country where the volume of air travel has kept pace with air travel increases. In the first three quarters of 2013, capacity increased by around 30 percent year-on-year and was thus only slightly above the 29 percent rise in the number of migrants.
However, capacity utilization of the twoayssian airlines - AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) - fell slightly. Malaysia AirAsia cargo to and from Yangon fell from 75% in the first nine moths of 2012 to 74% in the first nine moths of 2013.
The airline's disciplined approach to air traffic, which saw it return to a sole day-to-day flight for the period July to October following the introduction of a second flight in October 2012, enabled it to sustain a substantial seat-utilisation. By contrast, the Thai AirAsia affiliate recorded a decline in seat utilization to 67% on the Yangon-Bangkok and 54% on Mandalay-Bangkokroutes.
In the first three quarters of 2013, the AirAsia Group handled around 18% of international passengers in Myanmar. AirAsia's projected seating for Jan-2014 gives the group a 16%hare. By far the biggest LCC mark in Myanmar, AirAsia accounts for almost half of the entire international LCC population.
Burma currently serves nine other destinations - China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, Qatar, Cambodia and Japan. Myanmar's international passenger traffic grew from 1.3 million in the first three quarter of 2012 to 1.8 million in the first three quarter of 2012.
The number of travellers increased by 33 percent to 2 million in 2012 as a whole. As a result of the introduction of service offerings in the five new countries, the previous pace of expansion in the three largest countries Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia was below the 37% market share mean.
China, now Myanmar's fourth-largest store, increased by 25% to around 150,000 travellers in the first three quarters 2013. Vietnam, the fifth busiest country, increased by 14% to 49,000 and India, the 6th busiest country, increased by 18% to 34,000 people. China's three major airlines - Air China, China Eastern and China Southern - operate to Myanmar as well as Air India and Vietnam Airlines.
While all five of these airlines have served Myanmar before the opening of the markets, all but Air China have expanded their capacities over the last two years. Cambodia was the only country to record a drop in the number of travellers last year. However, Myanmar-Cambodia is a small country with only 7,000 travellers in the first three quarter of 2013, compared to 8,000 in the first three quarter of 2012.
Cambodia is the only country out of the 11 currently serviced from Myanmar that is not serviced by a non-German airline. At present Myanmar Airways International (MAI) offers only three daily services to Cambodia on a Yangon-Siem Reap-Phnom Penh route. MAI seat occupancy on Myanmar - Cambodia routes was well below 50%, indicating that the size of the air transport markets is not yet large enough to maintain scheduled services.
Nearly 57,000 air travelers took off between Myanmar and Taiwan in the first three quarters of 2013, an increase of 63% over the same time frame in 2012. Taiwan's China Airlines (CAL) was the only airline outside Southeast Asia and the Chinese continent to serve Myanmar before the opening of the Chinese airspace in mid-2012.
CAL, like almost all international airlines already operating in Myanmar, has expanded its capacities and doubled its frequency from three to six after the opening of the markets. However, as with most international airlines operating in Myanmar, the extra capacities have not yet been soaked up. EVA, its competitor, also stopped flying to Yangon in May-2013, only seven month after the start of the three-week flight.
On 116 routes to and from Yangon, EVA carried only 8,700 people. On its Yangon services EVA used 162 seats, which corresponds to a capacity utilization of only 46%. In the first three quarters of 2013, CAL developed better with an annual passenger volume of 107 per trip in Yangon.
With 158 seats and an expected capacity utilization of 68%, CAL will serve Yangon. However, this corresponds to a decrease of 10 ppt from the 78% capacity utilization estimate for the first three quarter of 2012. Whilst the CAL loading coefficient is below its mean, it is significantly better than its northern Asia competitors, who have remained in the Myanmar region with the exclusion of EVA, despite less than outstanding uptake.
It is expected that on the Myanmar side of the Atlantic Ocean it will benefit from its longer exposure than its competitors from Hong Kong, Korea and Japan. In the one-stop Myanmar-USA region, which has become more highly developed as a result of new opportunities via Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo, especially strongly represented by globalization. In the first three Quarters of 2013, Korea Air (KAL) transported 65,631 people to and from Yangon.
There were 546 scheduled services during this time, which corresponds to an annual passenger volume of 118 people. In Yangon, KAL started with an aggressive day program with 226 seats on the A330-200. That turned out to be too much and KAL exchanged the A330 for a 737-800 from Jun-2013 to Oct-2013. It' not possible to compute the KAL charge factor for Yangon, but they have certainly significantly increased after the lane changes, as Seoul-Yangon is a long trip for a 737 (over six hours).
Despite low capacity utilization, Asiana operates 250 seats from 767-300 to Yangon throughout the year. The airline carried 22,699 people on 168 services to and from Yangon in the first three quarters 2013. This corresponds to an avarage of 135 people per trip and an expected utilisation rate of 54%.
However, Asiana only operates two week-long services to Yangon, which is less than KAL's exposure. The Cathay Pacific affiliate Dragonair has had a similar level of occupancy since the launch of Yangon in January 2013 with 172 seats onboard. In the first nine of 2013, the airline carried 28,381 air travelers to and from Yangon, which corresponds to an expected 55% occupancy rate.
ANA' s occupancy rate for its Yangon-Tokyo Narita services averaged approximately 59% in the first nine month of 2013. Throughout this time, ANA ran three week-long services to Yangon with 737-700ERs in all-premium configurations with 24 commercial and 10 prime budget seating. In the first nine of 2013, ANA transported only 3,931 people to and from Yangon, an increase of 20 for the 196 scheduled services during this time.
ANA equipped its Yangon base on September 30, 2013 with a 767-300 dayly scheduled dual category aircraft system. This means that ANA now provides around 1,700 one-way seating places per week to Yangon, in comparison with only around 100 until now. ANA will provide ANA with its Myanmar home offices and a regional distribution network.
After Thailand and China, Japan is the third biggest visitor to Myanmar, which increases ANA's chances in the industry, as it is the only airline to offer non-stop between them. During the first seven month of 2013, 37,000 Myanmar residents visited Japan. The 767 now allows ANA to carry groups of passengers from Japan who have so far flown to Myanmar via other Asiatic bases, as the 737-700ER has no economical cabins.
Now that Myanmar is drawing significant amounts of overseas investments, there is a fairly high proportion of profitable trade. They are helping to mitigate the impact of low capacity utilization, but eventually the international airlines operating in Myanmar will need higher numbers of travellers in both cabs to maintain their service. Myanmar's burgeoning tourist industry should help, but only slowly, as there are now big issues hindering the fast growing tourist industry in Myanmar, which includes a shortage of hotels and other infrastructures.
Qatar Airways has the highest capacity utilization rate of all airlines that started operating operations to Myanmar in 2012 or 2013. In the first three quarters of 2013, Qatar carried 26,397 people on 372 routes to and from Yangon. Since Qatar operates 110-seat A319LR aircraft on the Doha-Yangon service, the mean seat occupancy rate during this time was 65%.
Qatar is the only airline in Europe currently operating in Myanmar, offering some of the quickest flights between Myanmar and Europe. Travellers travelling between Myanmar and Europe, a small but rapidly expanding markets since the lifting of EU restrictions on Myanmar last year, can also fly through other South East Asia turnstiles.
However, this will require a small step backwards, as Myanmar is the most western of Southeast Asia. In contrast to most other international airlines that have accessed the Myanmar air transport markets, Qatar has not hesitated to cut down the low season to better meet demands. Initially, Qatar wanted to travel to Yangon every day of the year, but reduced the number of flights to three per week from the beginning of May to the end of October 2013.
The move benefited the company's overall utilization and return on investment. The majority of international airlines that came to Myanmar on a wide-body plane have found that, for the time being at least, there is not enough air traffic to fill a two-aisle plane. Qatar is likely to become a wide-body jet as the markets mature. Until then Qatar will have established a powerful footprint in the Myanmar region, taking full benefit of First Match.
With 1,540 seatings per week and a less than 2% of Myanmar's international air transport fleet, Qatar is one of the smallest airlines on the world. However, as international capacities in Myanmar have rapidly grown to double and exceed demands, being smaller means minimizing loss while establishing a strategic footprint. While there may be increasing pain and challenge, the Myanmar markets offer enormous mid- to long-term opportunity.
Twenty-three international airlines now serving Myanmar, among them the nine that have been added since the opening of the markets, will ultimately be reaping the benefits. Myanmar's colorful and overcrowded group of national airlines is analyzed in its 4th and final grouping.