Aviation: Private airline Tashi Air has requested the department of civil aviation (DCA) to obtain approval for a route connecting Bhutan to Singapore, via Myanmar.
Tashi Air CEO, Phala Dorji, said that, once the necessary approvals are acquired, the airline would study the economic viability of the route to determine how frequently it would fly to Singapore. He said that it was hoped the Tashi Air could begin flying to Singapore within this year.
The national airliner Drukair currently flies once a week to Singapore, via Kolkata.
Drukair also has the rights to fly to Singapore via Dhaka, however this route is not used.
Bhutan currently does not have fifth freedom rights between Myanmar and Singapore. Fifth freedom rights grants an airline to pick up or drop off passengers in a second foreign country (in this case, Myanmar) while flying between the home country and a foreign country (Singapore).
While Bhutan has fifth freedom rights between Myanmar and Thailand for two flights a week, it is not used.
Discussions have been initiated with Myanmar for additional fifth freedom rights to Singapore.
DCA director Wangdi Gyaltshen said that Myanmar has responded that it could not consider additional fifth freedom rights to Singapore, given the unused existing ones for Thailand. He said that Myanmar has pointed out that a route to Singapore would be considered if Bhutan gives up its rights to Thailand.
The director added that discussions with the two airlines were underway to determine whether the existing rights should be given up to allow the Singapore route instead. He said that a careful study was being undertaken to determine the most beneficial route for Bhutan.
Meanwhile, Phala Dorji said that, while Tashi Air was still operating in the red, as an organisation it was now fully established and had obtained all required human resources.
He said that it might be another two-three years before the airline could finally break even.
The private airline will be introducing a frequent flyer program and a mobile app next month. Using the mobile app, users will be able to get flight information, schedule, and check seat availability. Users will also be able to book their flights using the mobile app.
By Gyalsten K Dorji