My 1st TR of the new year! My last flight in 2012 and first flight in 2013 would be on a seldom flown and reported airline, Myanmar Airways International. A month ago, I was searching for cheap flights to Bangkok over the New Year period but most budget airlines were selling flights from the mid S$200s to more than S$300, when I chanced upon Myanmar Airways International (MAI), offering daily flights on the SIN-BKK route at a very low price of S$240 all-in! A very good deal considering MAI is supposed to be a full-service carrier. Apparently, other than the daily RGN-SIN-RGN flights, MAI has also restarted the RGN-BKK-SIN route, offering 5th-freedom flights on the SIN-BKK-SIN sectors. MAI has also leased 2 A320s from BH Air of Bulgaria to operate the new flights and launch additional flights. It is not everyday that one has a chance to fly on MAI and so the flights were booked in no time!
MAI does not offer online check-in service at the moment and so check-in has to be done manually at the check-in counters at Terminal 1. Even though the flight is listed as operating to Yangon via BKK, in actual fact the flight is terminating in BKK and would only operate onwards to RGN on the same flight number the following morning from BKK. It appears that MAI has launched this route solely to cater to SIN-BKK vv passengers. However I am not sure how MAI can be competitive with only 1x daily flight on the route. Guess MAI would compete on price.
There were 4 desks opened for check-in, but all were almost empty. According to the check-in agent, the flight was very light. Surprising, considering that quite a number of Singaporeans would fly up to BKK for the new year. Guess MAI needs to do a lot more promotions for this flight!
Boarding pass, printed on SATS generic card.
Did some spotting after clearing immigration. Thai A346 also flying to BKK, 15min before us.
2 Scoots here! Big brother SQ taxiing pass.
Jetstar A320 at gate C11.
My flight landed from BKK slightly behind schedule.
Turning into Gate C13. LZ-BHH, which is leased from BH Air, would be operating the flight.
30 December 2012
Myanmar Airways International
Singapore (SIN) - Bangkok (BKK)
LZ-BHH (leased from BH Air)
Went to the gate about 30min prior to departure. Judging by the number of pax at the gate, the load on this flight was really low! The flight should not be more than 50% full.
A shot of LZ-BHH at the gate.
Boarding was soon announced by row numbers, but was soon free-for-all with the low load. Was welcomed at the door by a Burmese MAI female purser (dressed in orange traditional Burmese MAI uniform), a male MAI crew and a Bulgarian BH Air crew. Later on, I learnt that the BH Air crew is mainly to oversee the safety aspects of the flight. There were a total of 5 Burmese MAI crew (3 ladies, 2 guys) and a BH Air crew on the flight. Pilots were also from BH Air.
This leased A320 is fitted in an all-economy 180 seats layout and was used previously by IndiGo. However the cabin is still very well-kept and fresh. Seats are all in blue cloth upholstery.
Initially I was assigned at seat 15F. View from the window.
Legroom at row 15. Not too generous, but slightly better than budget airlines. However the design of the seat ensures that my legs could be stretched under the seat in front.
Bulgarian translations. Interesting.
In the seat pocket were Mingalabar inflight magazine, duty-free magazine, safety card and an airsick bag.
Still waiting for everyone to be onboard.
Crew distributed refreshing towelettes while waiting for pushback.
MAI refreshing paper towel.
10 minutes prior to departure, doors were closed and welcome announcements were given in only English. There would be no Burmese nationals on this flight as the plane would be night-stopping in Bangkok. Interestingly, the purser sounded suspiciously Singaporean... Later I learned that she used to work with Jetstar Asia. No wonder the Singaporean accent. Flight time announced as 2hrs and safety demonstration was performed manually. No inflight entertainment gadgets on this plane. Load was definitely less than 50%.
We had a very long taxi to Rwy 02C for takeoff today. Passing the closed Budget Terminal. The aircraft parking lots are now used as remote bays.
Taking off from Rwy02C, just 5min behind STD.
After takeoff announcement.
Still climbing. We cleared the rainy clouds just shortly after departure.
Seeing the emergency seat row at row 13 was occupied, I immediately moved over right after the seatbelt signs were switched off. Luxury!!
More Bulgarian translations.
Immediately after seatbelt signs were switched off, the crew came down the aisle with a trolley of newspapers with choices of Straits Times, Bangkok Post, and a few other selections. This would be the only "inflight entertainment" apart from the inflight magazine. Immigration forms were handed out too. For passengers who require pillows/blankets, these were also available upon request (I found out about this only on the return flight) but the pillows/blankets were collected back towards the end of the flight.
Next up, the main event aka meal service. A full meal would be served on this flight along with a selection of drinks. 2 carts rolled down the aisle with 2 crew manning each cart. Meal service was efficient, in fact too efficient, as the crew seemed so hurried even though the flight was very empty. It felt as if the crew were trying to serve a meal on a SIN-KL 30min flight!
On offer today were either Chicken with potatoes or Fish with rice. The drinks on offer on the cart top included orange juice, coke, "Myanmar"-branded beer, water (bottled, not airplane) and coffee/tea. Not sure if any wines or other soft drinks/juices are available.
My meal tray. On the meal tray were also a jelly dessert and drinking water. I had an orange juice and a beer to go along.
Contents revealed. The meals seemed catered from SIN, judging from the drinking water packing.
Chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Tasted very "airplaney".
Fish with egg fried rice and vegetables. This choice was delicious!
"Myanmar" beer and a jelly dessert. The dessert was not satisfying enough.
The brand of beer that was served.
After distribution of trays, crew came down with the cart again to offer coffee/tea or more drinks top-ups. I had a tea to end the meal.
Overall, MAI crew service was average. Definitely not up to SQ/TG standards but still acceptable. Other than the "Jetstar-trained" purser, the rest of the MAI crew seemed very reserved, with minimal interaction with passengers other than the necessary. The sole Bulgarian BH Air crew only assisted with the clearing of meal trays towards the end of meal service. Meal trays were collected barely 45min after takeoff. Nothing much else to do except browsing the inflight magazine. Looks like MAI is looking at expanding their network further in the near future, including SIN-CGK and SIN-Mandalay routes!
After the meal service, the crew remained in the galley mainly for the rest of the flight, only appearing to check on seatbelts when the seatbelt signs came on. Not sure about their response to call-buttons as no one seemed to press it. The set of crew would operate 3 sectors today, RGN-BKK-SIN-BKK, night-stop in BKK, and operate the final BKK-RGN sector early next morning.
View of the clean and tidy cabin from the rear.
Empty emex row at row 12.
My only form of entertainment, watching the clouds go by....
Soon, we started our descend into Bangkok. Cabin was secured halfway through the descent and we headed towards the airport from the south.
Not much of a hold as it was not the peak period and we landed at Rwy 01L at 1717hrs BKK time, 15min ahead of schedule. A Tiger and a SQ flight from SIN also landed within 5 minutes before us. Wow, that made it 4 flights from Singapore (TG/TR/SQ/8M) within 20mins! Apologies for the fogged up window.
As the plane would be night-stopping in BKK, we parked at a remote stand and had to be bussed to the terminal. Not that I minded!
Waiting for disembarkation.
Just exiting the plane.
Down the stairs.
Chance to catch some planes from the tarmac! A unique Russian airline, Orenair (Orenburg Airlines)!
Vietnam Airlines A321
ANA, BA and El Al resting before their flights later in the evening.
Thankfully, there were no queues at immigration and I was through within 5 minutes!! A record for me at BKK!
However still have to wait for luggage though.
Myanmar Airways International still have quite a long way to go to match the standards of the major Asian carriers. As a young and expanding carrier with high ambitions in the near future, it has mainly achieved the basics of a full-service carrier but would have to do more to improve its service offerings (such as IFE, better quality meals and amenities, more responsive crew, better frequent-flyer programmes) and change the public perceptions of the airline (my colleagues were going "Are you crazy? Eeww!" when I informed them that I would be flying MAI) so that it would achieve similar status as the major airlines i the region. Other than that, MAI is certainly an interesting airline to fly on and is definitely value-for-money!