This is my first ever flight with Myanmar Airways International, which is (interestingly, despite its name) a private airline. Its rather small international operations are limited to a few selected regional cities in Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore), India (Gaya and Kolkata), and China (Guangzhou).
Trying a new airline always got me quite excited and some of the online reviews described a warm and hospitable cabin service, which I would be happy to experience.
Operator: Myanmar Airways International
Flight: 8M 502
Route: Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Yangon (RGN)
Aircraft: Airbus 319-111
Departure from Kuala Lumpur International Airport: 5.30pm / 6.10pm*
Arrival in Yangon International Airport: 6.30pm / 6.58pm*
Flight Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes / 2 hours and 18 minutes*
(* denotes actual timings)
Like other international airlines, Myanmar Airways International departs from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and check-in was at Row F.
An interesting incident happened to me during my check-in. Upon arriving at the check-in row, I observed there were passengers on the same flight who arrived early and seemed to be flying with piles and piles of baggage. I thought to myself "That's going to be a lot of excess baggage fees!"
As I was waiting in line to check-in, I was approached by two of them (separately), who asked me what was my destination and if I would be willing to share my baggage allowance with them (ie. checking-in their bags under my name). One of them told me her baggage comprised all clothing and she was willing to open it for me to see. While usually I would try to help someone if I could, I figured it would not be worth a risk to end up in Burmese jail if she had something(s) contraband in her baggage.
Most surprisingly though, many of the passengers (most of them young male migrant workers returning home to Myanmar) in the check-in queue who were approached actually agreed to help them out. The lady who solicited help would even stand with them during their check-in and continue to add more bags until the weight limit is met! In enlisting the help of fellow passengers, the ladies got away with paying for what would have been hefty baggage fees. Even before stepping into Myanmar, this was going to my first of many encounters with the kindness of the Burmese people who were more than willing to lend a hand to their fellow countrymen. Though I was filled with reflections after this experience, I probably could not bring myself to take this risk. Would you?
So I checked-in without extra baggage (pun unintended). The check-in agent, though not most friendly, was helpful in assisting me to select my desired seat. Myanmar Airways International does not offer online check-in or self-check-in facilities currently so I had to get my desired seat the old school way - being nice and polite to the check-in agent!
Off I went to the airside, and saw an interesting airline, Himalaya Airlines, which I have not heard before. Always good to learn something new. It would be operating flight H9891 to Kathmandu.
There was also Etihad Airways A330-243 (A6-EYE) in an absolutely dazzling "Blue Moon Rising" livery. It looks like a flying turquoise jewel! Definitely a "blue moon rising" event for me to spot this aircraft!
The operating aircraft for 8M502 was delayed in its arrival as flight 8M501 from Yangon, so the security check for passengers for entry into the holding room was also pushed back. Turnaround was quick though after the aircraft's arrival, and soon a general boarding call was made for all passengers to board (probably no priority boarding due to the light load).
At the boarding door, an assortment of newspapers (including, oddly, Thailand's main papers: The Nation and Bangkok Post) were available. Onboard, each cabin crew greeted passengers (in Burmese).
The slim line leather Economy Class seat is in a grey leather shade and headrest cover features KBZ Bank advertising - making the seat rather low-cost-ish in appearance.
Refreshing towels were distributed after the boarding was completed.
Announcements were made in Burmese followed by English. The captain (he has a very nice quality of voice) informed us of the flight time (2 hours and 15 minutes) and that the aircraft would climb to an altitude of 36,000 feet. There was no mention of the delay.
After a safety demonstration in English (with safety instructions repeated in Burmese), the aircraft took off in the sunset.
Immigration forms were distributed after take off.
Dinner service quickly commenced with the serving of the meals. Turbulence was encountered during the meal service. Note the instructions for "Life vest under your seat" in Spanish, giving away the aircraft's past life with Iberia.
There were two entrée choices:
Sweet & Sour Fish (Red Snapper) Served with Steamed Rice
Grilled Chicken Thigh with Herbs, Mushroom Sauce, Four Color Linguini Pasta
I was served by the sole flight steward in Economy Class. I opted for the fish choice but upon opening the foil, it turned out to be the chicken choice instead. I waved to catch his attention and coming over, he was apologetic and quickly changed the casserole for me.
On the same tray was a dessert: Bread Butter Pudding with Vanilla Sauce.
He probably was feeling quite guilty about serving me the wrong choice so he proactively asked me how was my meal and if I would like any beers or wines. I asked for some red wine which he promptly went to the galley to prepare and serve to me, together with a packet of salted nuts.
For the other passengers, the cabin crew came round with the drinks cart after all meals were served. Aside from (red and white) wine, whisky, Myanmar Beer, juices, soft drinks, hot coffee and tea were available. Myanmar Beer seems to be a popular choice of drink for the passengers - most passengers were young men, after all.
When my glass was empty, the flight steward quickly brought me another glass without me asking. I really appreciate his proactiveness and sincerity in remedying the earlier situation, even though I was already satisfied since I did receive the meal I wanted.
The meal trays were quickly cleared. I then did some newspaper flipping and checking out of the inflight literature.
A view of the rather empty cabin.
The lavatory was quite basic, with some air sickness bags, facial tissue, and a citrus-flavoured hand soap.
I went to the galley to request for a Myanmar Beer - I just had to try it since it seemed to be popular amongst the fellow passengers. Returning to my seat with my can of beer, the flight steward popped by to offer me another packet of peanuts as well. I really appreciate his great service!
The rest of the flight was spent enjoying my salty snack and cold beer, while appreciating the sunset views.
Soon after, the cabin was prepared for landing. During the descent, ricefields and meandering rivers gave way to urban buildings as we landed on a wet runway as light gave way to darkness in Yangon International Airport.
Some after-flight thoughts: This was my first ever flight with Myanmar Airways International and it was a very pleasant experience. Myanmar Airways International is a pretty decent regional carrier. The meal was quite basic - just an entrée and dessert and taste was okay. Cabin service mirrors that of other Southeast Asian regional airlines such as SilkAir and Bangkok Airways, though like many reviews, the flight attendants' service (particularly the flight steward) was sincere and good. The situation at check-in was something quite alien and bizarre to me, especially when so many fellow male passengers were fine with helping the ladies out on their excess baggage - even though I would imagine they were taking a risk in being involuntary drug smugglers (perhaps, I am just overthinking it). Anyway, bless their kind hearts, and speaking to one of them whilst waiting at the check-in queue, I learnt that he had been working in Malaysia for five years and was finally returning home to Myanmar after so long. Though we were constrained by a language barrier, he sat one row in front during the flight and smiled each time he saw me. I would imagine, after half a decade working overseas, he must have been extremely excited and probably relieved in returning home. This flight was a milestone that was a closure of a chapter of his life, and an opening of a new life chapter. As a fellow human being, I certainly was happy for him.
It was a good flight.
Thank you for reading this Myanmar Airways International flight review on FlightTravels.
For the video experience of my 8M502 flight, please see below: