Myanmar needs desperately to modernise its airports to be able to attract tourists to more destinations within the country. Japan and China are ready to help, starting with Bagan.
With over 300,000 international visitors in 2017, Bagan is one of the most vivisted destinations in Myanmar. However, air access to this outstanding destination still remains long for travellers, who have to either fly directly to Mandalay and continue their journey by road or to transfer to a domestic flight in Yangon.
Nyaung U airport (the other name for Bagan) has been long tipped as the country’s fourth international gateway. However, the lack of facilities such as a kerosene station, a proper all-weather take-off and landing system for aircraft approach or immigration facilities have derailed attempts to launch international flights.
Recently the intention of both Cambodia and Myanmar ministries of tourism to see direct air services established between Bagan and Angkor Wat has remained a dream. Not only due to the infrastructure of Bagan but also due to a absence of potential passengers for the new route. If Bagan has to be connected to international destinations, it would rather be to large cities offering potential such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City or Kunming.
So far, all the contacted airlines in Cambodia and Myanmar refused to fly the route due to the absence of profitability. Only Bangkok Airways was ready to take the risk if it was also allowed to launch a Siem Reap-Bangkok-Bagan flight. The demand has been refused by Myanmar Civil Aviation.
However, Bagan airport is on the verge of being modernised. Japan already commissioned US$42 million to upgrade the airport. The extension of the runway will help receiving larger aircraft while the terminal will be modernised and doted with immigration facilities. The upgraded terminal and runway should be ready in 2019, according to Japan.