NARITA, CHIBA PREF. – All Nippon Airways Co. on Monday resumed direct flights between Japan and Myanmar for the first time in 12 years amid an increase in the number of business travelers to the Southeast Asian country.
Tourist and business passengers are expected to rise in line with Myanmar’s democratization.
The three weekly round-trip flights between Narita and Yangon will use the Boeing 737-700ER, equipped with only 38 business-class seats.
“Myanmar has high potential for economic growth. A lot of Japanese firms have already decided to make inroads into Myanmar and many others are planning to do so,” ANA President Shinichiro Ito said at the inauguration ceremony at Narita International Airport.
“We aim to increase our service on the route to seven days a week and use bigger aircraft down the road,” Ito said, expressing hope that economy-class seating will be available in the future if Myanmar’s tourism potential grows.
ANA halted flights to Myanmar in March 2000 due to political instability in the country.
According to the Asian Development Bank, Myanmar’s economy, as measured by gross domestic product, is expected to see 6.5 percent growth in 2013, with revenues from its rich natural resources, including natural gas, and an increasing number of tourists to the country boosting its development.
At the ceremony, Myanmar Ambassador to Japan U Khin Maung Tin said the average number of visa requests for Myanmar increased from around 80 to 200 a day since the country has taken a series of political and economic reforms. “We hope to contribute to further enhance economic ties between Japan and Myanmar,” he said.
Among the 38 passengers who boarded the first flight, which took off at 10:50 a.m., Ichiro Tanaka, 63, who has been engaged in agriculture- and resource-related business activities in Myanmar, hailed the resumption of the direct flights, which shorten flight time from a total of more than 10 hours to around seven.