Myanmar, the Last Frontier for Dual Pricing in Air Transport

Myanmar is the last country among ASEAN members to still provide dual pricing for air travellers on domestic routes. A situation which needs to change as such discriminatory practices can only damage the country’s image as a tourism-friendly destination…

It was common practice a few years ago in countries such as Lao PDR or Vietnam. Passengers were discriminated according to their nationality on domestic routes. One price for foreigner, one different price – generally to a fraction of the fare for foreigners- for nationals.

Times have however changed and Laotian as well as Vietnamese authorities acknowledge now that people able to afford flying have enough money to pay for a fixed fare. Why is then Myanmar the last country to still make a distinction between domestic and foreign air passengers?

The difference is noticeable: on a flight from Yangon to Bagan on February 22, airlines price the one-way ticket between US$100 and US110 for foreign travellers. While the same ticket will cost for a local between MK67,000 and MK81,600 – the equivalent of US$49 to US$59. Such prices are very much similar to the ones charged in Cambodia on the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route.

Dual pricing is nothing of a novelty around the world where many countries favour their citizens by providing discounted prices compared to foreign travellers. Although foreign travellers might accept to pay a premium to visit a museum, a site of for trains – in a bid to encourage or allow their own citizens to use facilities designed for their own sake-, the practice is more dubious when coming to air transport. In fact, flying is still considered as a luxury for many. And definitely in Myanmar, where only public servants and the upper and upper-middle class can afford to fly…

Dual pricing in air transport is even detrimental to tourism and to the local economy. According to a Myanmar expert based in Northern Thailand, offering a standard fare to anyone would help to promote the use of local Myanmar airports to fly domestically for foreign travellers. Airports such as Tachileik -across the province of Chiang Rai in Thailand-could then be well positioned as a Myanmar domestic hub. Especially as Tachileik border is now part of the e-visa facility, allowing easily foreign guests to pass the border from Mae Sai to Tachileik. Tachileik is already linked by two dozens of daily flights to three or four domestic destinations…

Will the Ministry of tourism finally look at the issue? Only if professionals and tourists regularly mention and complaint about it.

Examples of Price comparison for some domestic routes within the Greater Mekong Sub-region (for a flight on 22/02/2017)

Phnom Penh-Siem Reap      US$39- US$59- US$79    (Cambodia Angkor Air)

Vientiane-Luang Prabang    US$103.55- US$128.55   (Lao Airlines)

Yangon-Bagan    -foreigner  US$100 to US$110 (aggregate fare from various airlines)

-nationals  US$48.62 to US$59 (aggregate fare)

(Source: airlines)