Some travelers say that Myanmar is amazingly and pristinely beautiful, but its transportation services, including domestic flights, are quite backward compared to those of other countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand and Vietnam. I think the view is true in some aspects but not comprehensive. Here I want to share you my real experience on Mann Yatanarpon Airlines, one of eight domestic airlines operating Yangon-Bagan route in Myanmar, when I fly from Yangon to Bagan.
Fly from Yangon to Bagan: At the Airport
The Yangon International Airport is about 15 kilometers far from the Yangon downtown. It took me 30 minutes to get there (at 5.30 a.m.) by taxi in normal traffic, but if you travel during rush hours, it will take you over an hour, even two ones. In the Yangon airport, domestic flights take off from Terminal 3, which is smaller and older than Terminal 1&2 for international fights. When I arrived at the terminal, it was already teeming with tourists.
The domestic airline check-in counters open about 2 hours before departure and close 30 minutes before departure, so if you are checking a bag, be sure to make it within that window.
I walked up to the Mann Yadanarpon and showed the lady at the counter my e-ticket printout. After checking my name on the passenger list, she printed out a boarding pass for me and put a sticker, denoting the airline and flight I was on, on my t-shirt. At first, I thought how I could find the plane I would fly from Yangon to Bagan on at the boarding area, but later I saw that it was a good idea.
Having confirmed I was indeed a passenger, she gave a baggage tag to the airport guy with my suitcase and then stapled the claim check to my boarding pass and sent me to security.
The terminal inside looked very old with rows of plastic seats where people were waiting for their flights to be called. Though aging, the facilities were decent and the terminal was air conditioned, which was comfortable enough to cope with hot weather in Yangon.
As 7:00 am approached, there was a series of announcements in Burmese as flight after the flight began to board. All the domestic tourist flights from Yangon to Bagan depart right around the same time, so the genius of the stickers came into sharp focus as tourists constantly went up to try to board and were told that based on their stickers, their flight was not called yet. Then when it was their turn, they were allowed to pass out the door and onto a waiting shuttle which took them to their plane. It made the whole process a lot simpler, especially when there was a language barrier between the staff and passengers.
When my flight was called, I showed my ticket to the agent at the gate, went onto the shuttle and waited while other passengers boarded. Then we were driven out to our plane on the tarmac and boarded from the back.
Fly from Yangon to Bagan in Myanmar travel: On the plane
My plane was a small twin-prop one with about 20 rows of seats in a 2 x 2 configuration. Mann Yatanarpon Airlines has launched since mid-2013, so it was pretty new and looked clean and nice. There were three females and one male flight attendant, all in colorful uniforms that reflected traditional Burmese dress. (Passengers were not allowed to take photos of them).
Boarding took only a few minutes and as the final checked bags were loaded, the cabin door was closed. The flight attendants made the safety announcements in both English and Burmese, and then they took their seats. We started to fly Yangon to Bagan right on time.
During the flight from Yangon to Bagan, there was a quick beverage service of soda and water but no juice. After that, the flight attendants came around with boxed breakfasts, including a roll and a piece of frosted white cake, a Danish-like pastry with shredded cheese on it and a plastic cup of water. They then served tea and coffee clearing the trays. The entire service took about 20 minutes. Before landing, the flight attendants also carried around a basket of hard candies in a lot of tropical flavors.
We touched down in Nyaung U right on time. The passengers staying there were deplaned onto the tarmac and into a waiting shuttle, which drove us to the Bagan airport terminal.
Those of us with checked bags waited in a little room, and the bags came a few minutes later on a cart. I took my bag and went out into the main terminal to meet my guide. On our way out, I paid the $20US fee to enter the Bagan Archaeological Zone and got a ticket that I had to keep on me at all times.
It took me 1h15m and cost $104 to fly from Yangon to Bagan during my Burma tours. I did not think everything was perfect, but it was a fast, efficient and a journey, at least the plane took off and landed on time as well as the staff was friendly and useful. If you are considering how to travel from Yangon to Bagan, I suggest a domestic flight offered by Mann Yatanarpon Airlines, Air Bagan or Air Mandalay; it would be worth a valuable experience.