I love flying new airlines, but in my mind safety comes first and I’m very careful with which airlines I fly with. I pour over online reviews until I find the perfect match (and a flight schedule suitable to sleeping in also helps!) before booking.
After talking with friends who had recently visited or lived in Myanmar, the results came back overwhelmingly praising Myanmar National Airlines (MNA) for domestic flights within the country. I was sold.
A quick review of Myanmar National Airlines
Yangon to Heho (return)
Greeted with a friendly ‘Mingalarba‘ (Hello/Welcome), the check in process was quick and efficient on both segments of my trip even when I was travelling as part of a big group.
Currently, Myanmar National Airlines flies to 32 destinations, including 5 international destinations (Singapore, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Gaya (India), and Hong Kong. There are plans to expand into Taiwan soon!)
Yangon International Airport (YIA)
Being the countries largest airport in Myanmar, the check-in, security and lounge process is similar to most international airports: quick and efficient. All domestic flights leave from newly built Terminal 3.
There’s a small array of shops – bookstore/newsagency, a few cafes and restaurants, and souvenir stores – to browse. From memory, there was free WiFi at the airport which ran slowly but did work.
If you are flying domestically with Myanmar National Airlines, it’s likely you’ll be onboard an ATR-72 Twin Prop plane. Due to the size of the plane, from the gate, you will take a bus across the tarmac to board.
As a small regional airport, located nearby popular Inle Lake, the process is straightforward but a little chaotic, especially where there are several flights taking off from different airlines within a few minutes, as was the case when I flew from Heho – Yangon.
Heho Airport has a few shops to pick up last minute souvenirs, snacks and drinks for the plane and a small bar area. The ‘gates’ are all within one building and travellers will all be seated together so be sure to listen for your airline’s name calling your flight to board!
Again, you will walk out of the terminal onto the tarmac to board the plane, likely an ATR-72 Twin Prop.
Onboard Myanmar National Airlines
For short domestic hops, Myanmar National Airlines flies ATR 72’s, twin engine prop planes in a seating configuration of 2-2. Yes, no pesky middle seat onboard these beauties!
Seats are comfortable offering passengers 17 inches in width and a seat pitch of 30-32 inches. Arms are movable in all but the bulkhead row (front row), where the seat space is reduced a little more.
On a short 1 hour hop the leg room was fine (I’m a leggy 5ft 7″ and there was around 2″ of space between my knees and the chair), but becomes a little difficult when the passenger in front of you is reclined. I was thankful to be able to nab a seat without anyone next to me on all three flight segments I took with Myanmar National Airlines, which made the space more comfortable.
If you are seated in the aisle, watch your elbows. Due to the cabin size, when the trolley comes through you may get whacked as I did on one occasion. Turns out getting your funny bone hit isn’t all that humorous…
The overhead compartment is long but there isn’t a lot of height. For those with big camera bags, you may need to check the bag or put it under the seat in front of you, and remember to leave your drone at home; it’s illegal to fly drones in Myanmar!
Onboard domestic flights within Myanmar, there is no in-flight entertainment. It’s okay, flights are relatively short (around 1hr 10mins) so settle in for a comfortable nap or remember to bring your headphones or a good book!
There are copies of the MNA In-flight magazine in the seat pocket in front of you, though!
On my flight from Yangon – Heho, I was flying an indirect route with one stop in Bagan. Unlike when flying in Australia, we were allowed to stay onboard the plane during the layover which lasted around 20 minutes.
Travelling with a stopover does mean an additional hour is added to the journey (from 1hr 10mins to 2hr 10mins) but it’s comfortable, you are provided with a meal and drinks on both legs, and with only a few flight options each day, it’s a fine way to get between cities quickly.
Note: if you have moved seats during the first segment of your flight, you may be required to move back to the original. I did find that while some of my travel companions were asked to move, I was not.
How was the Food?
Complimentary meals and drinks are served during domestic flights on Myanmar National Airlines.
On both segments, a small paper box was set in front of me with two types of pastries: a croissant and a sweeter sugar/almost pound cake (pictured above). On the Bagan – Heho segment, I was served a sandwich and some prawn crackers which I can only describe as ‘prawn curls’.
Flying the Bagan – Heho segment, I was served a sandwich and some prawn crackers which I can only describe as ‘prawn curls’.
The prawn curls weren’t marked as prawn and I mistakenly took a bite of them before realising what they were. While I’m not allergic if you do have allergies be careful!
Drinks are kept basic: water, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Miranda and 7-Up are served in single-use cups from 2L bottles, but you are offered drinks 1-2 times per flight, which I thought was a nice touch.
As someone who is a cautious traveller when choosing airlines, I really enjoyed my experience flying three segments with Myanmar National Airline.
Throughout the whole trip, my only concern was on the flight from Heho – Yangon, one of the tires was looking pretty flat. While it did not impact our flight in any way, I do question if this was part of the reason the plane tried to pull to the left a little when we landed in Yangon (a minor detail, but I’m a curious aviation geek).
While I’m sure the plane is looked over between jaunts (many of the planes seem to fly multiple segments with very quick (20-40minute) turnarounds, I would hope it was a priority.
While I enjoyed my experience flying Tigerair Asia from Singapore – Yangon, next I’d be curious to see how MNA’s international flights stood up to its low-cost competition.
I highly recommend MNA to travellers and can’t wait to fly with them again on my next (longer!) trip to Myanmar!
Myanmar National Airline
Based: Yangon, Myanmar
Frequent Flyer Program: mna club
How to get to Myanmar:
From Singapore, I flew with Tigerair Asia to Yangon who offers one daily direct flight.
Myanmar International Airlines ( the same airline as this review, international flights are on bigger planes!) offers two direct daily flights from Singapore Changi to Yangon International.
Do you need a visa for Myanmar?
It’s highly likely you’ll need an eVisa for Myanmar. While you can get to visa on arrival, it’s smart to get them online before you fly. Don’t go through a third-party visa company. The official eVisa progress is quick and easy.
Tourist visas cost USD$50 and business visas cost USD$70, at the time of writing. The website accepts all major credit cards. You can apply for the official eVisa site for Myanmar here.
Make sure you print your eVisa out with you before you check-in for your flight to Yangon. I didn’t realise that you needed a printed copy and had to print a copy at one of the stalls in Changi’s Terminal 2 which cost SGD$2.
Where to stay in Myanmar
Accommodation in Myanmar is fairly reasonably priced. On my whirlwind trip to Yangon, I stayed at two properties:
On the first overnight stop, I rested at the ibis Styles Yangon Stadium. The seriously funky hotel rooms mix bright colours and modern amenities with Myanmar artwork and locally made furnishings. Rooms are large and comfortable. Best of all the property has free WiFi access!
On my final night in Yangon, I stayed at the Novotel Yangon Max. After a busy week exploring Singapore and Myanmar, it was just the treat I needed with large spacious rooms, a soft pillowy king bed and rainforest shower. I highly recommend upgrading yourself to stay in one of their Executive Rooms, which includes free WiFi, access to the Premier Lounge and breakfast!
For more hotels in Yangon, check out the rates here.
While in Inle Lake, I stayed at the stunning Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min. It’s listed as a four-star property but my gosh you’ll feel like a princess (or prince!) in their beautiful villas, complete with four poster beds, his-and-her sinks and the most luxurious free-standing bath. This is the place to go for a romantic getaway.
I may have also snuck in a traditional Myanmar massage at the on-site spa, which I highly recommend!
I flew as a guest of Myanmar National Airlines, part of the #Escapers17 trip with Accor Hotels, Scoot, TigerAir and Asia Holidays.
All thoughts, opinions and time spent trying to fit my camera bag into the overhead were, as always, my own (sorry!)