The Myanmar government is extending its ban on domestic and international scheduled passenger flights to 31 December as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the country.

Domestic scheduled flights have been banned since mid-September while international scheduled flights have been banned since April. This means the long-awaited return to business under a “Strategic Roadmap for Tourism Recovery” laid out by the government earlier this year is unlikely to occur anytime soon. 

The roadmap aimed to re-launch tourism and travel activities from end-2020, starting with the development of bilateral travel arrangements with Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. But Myanmar’s daily new COVID-19 cases are now in their thousands, up from the daily double-digits reported until early September.   

The Myanmar Times, citing the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, says Myanmar’s year-to-date tourism revenue has fallen 80%, or US$2.3 billion, year-on-year. The ministry says the virus will continue to plague the country for another year or more. 

The newspaper also cites a local airline official who says all airlines in Myanmar lease their aircraft, so the airline industry has likely been suffering even bigger losses since the scheduled flight bans.

But some airlines remain positive during the flight bans. Myanmar Airways International chief commercial officer Tanes Kumar, who Smart Aviation APAC spoke to in November, said the airline was planning to receive three more Embraer E190s by the first quarter of 2021. 

The regional jets presented opportunities to up-gauge on local trunk routes and develop short-haul international routes, he added.

Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation was also working to open new airports during the ban on scheduled passenger flights, and in October conducted test flights at Falam Surbung Airport in the northwestern Chin state.