How will Myanmar’s airlines prepare for competition in the ASEAN market?

28 December 2015
How will Myanmar’s airlines prepare for competition in the ASEAN market?
Air Kanbawza Director Okkar Tun

Air Kanbawza Director Okkar Tun talks to Mizzima’s Shumawa Aung.
Q: The ASEAN economic community will be implemented next year and there will be many investors coming to Myanmar, what is Air Kanbawza doing to compete in the ASEAN market?
A: We are closely monitoring the number of passengers and we will increase our fleet to meet the demands of the market. We are engaged in capacity building of our staff and are constantly giving them training. We are giving training to all of our staff at the airline - pilot training, aircraft maintenance training, ground crew training, cabin crew training, admin, marketing, and logistics support staff training etc. So these are our preparations for competing in the ASEAN economic community.
Q: As you know, in our country, economists say staff generally in Myanmar badly need capacity building. So what preparations are needed for those who are seeking jobs in your airline and how do you select and recruit staff for your airline and with what criteria?
A: The main thing is English language. We recruit and select them based on their language skills and educational qualifications such as graduation etc. And then we also look at their motivation and interests. These are important in our business as it needs teamwork. This job is exhausting and demanding. They also must be interested, otherwise they will not be happy in this work. So we recruit and select them based on language skills, hobbies, interests, and motivation. After recruiting them, we train them to suit our needs.
Q: Currently airlines are running at a very thin profit margin. Some are incurring losses. So how does your airline survive in this market?
A: We have to balance our costs to generate profit. So we have to minimize our costs and maximize our revenues. Sometimes we break even and sometimes we have a profit. We have to try hard. We need a lot of assistance from the State in minimizing our costs, for instance buying spare parts for our aircraft, paying import tax for them, and buying air turbine fuel as we have to pay in US dollars. If we can minimize these costs, we can generate profit from our businesses.
Q: You have competitors, are there many competing airlines in the domestic market. What do you prioritize?
A: In our business, we give service to our customers by taking them to their destination on time. So we need punctuality. This is very important for us. And the next important thing is saving the passenger money by offering them affordable airfares which totally depends on our strategy of balancing costs and revenue. Our business needs good service. So we consider all these things in our competition with other airlines.
Q: We hear that the tourism business and its related service industry will provide 2 million job opportunities in the country by the year 2020. Can the airline business provide more job opportunities in the coming four years?
A: We will expand our business when the number of passengers increase. We will expand our fleet and then we will need more pilots, maintenance engineers, ground staff, admin etc. So there will be more job opportunities for people as our business increases with the rise in passengers.
Q: What type of passengers do you depend on, domestic or foreign tourists?
A: We rely on both. We have low and high seasons. We try hard not to have a low season as much as we can. For instance, if you look at Thailand, they have passengers all the time though they have low occupancy rates in some months. So we are trying hard to minimize the low season in our business. This work must be done by all, I mean, the Ministry of hotels and tourism, tour operators, tour and travel agencies etc. together. At the moment, in the low season, we have to rely on local passengers and in the high season, we rely on foreign passengers. Later we must have foreign passengers all the time with some local travellers.
Q: What will change in the airline business in the coming years?
A: We will have more aircraft in our fleets. We will have more airlines in this business and there will be more choices for passengers. Then we have to take care of the quality of our service and try hard to offer affordable airfares to our customers. These are the changes we will see.