Executive travel: Night shift with Emirates to Yangon

Emirates’ new daily dir­ect service between Dubai and Yangon means that UAE business travellers are just 5.5 hours away from one of Asia’s most dynamic emerging markets. Unfortunately, departure times of 3.30am from Dubai and 1.50am on the way back make the trip more tiring for a than it would be during the day.

On the return leg, however, the late check-in time turned out to be a bonus, because it gave me an additional day’s sightseeing in Yangon after a tour of Myanmar, plus time for dinner with a contact before leaving the city at about 10pm to get to the airport.

The city’s terrible traffic – it usually takes at least an hour to get to and from the airport from the downtown area – had also completely died away by that time.

Yangon’s brand new international airport is an added draw for passengers, although the business class lounge, with its meagre buffet and bizarre collection of throne-like three-piece suites – is already ripe for improvement. Still, with few international airlines currently operating, its surreally quiet, crowd-free atmosphere has its own appeal.

Boarding takes place early, and departure is on time, despite heavy rain. I was in a window seat in the front row of business class, on a Boeing 777-300 in a 2-3-2 layout. The cabin was about half-full, but with the peak tourism season to Myan­mar starting in November, that is set to change.

I started watching a movie before take-off on the excellent ICE entertainment system and used it to distract me from a long periods of turbulence caused by the monsoon weather. Seat belts had to be fastened for most of the flight. I declined what looked like an attractive snack and a breakfast of coconut pancakes in favour of a few hours’ sleep. The cabin crew were pleasantly hands-off and once they had fitted my mattress I was left alone with my eye mask on until about 90 minutes before landing, when I was woken and the mattress was removed.

The early landing at 4.40am meant I could hit the working day on time, although the plane was parked a very long 20-minute walk from the gate to immigration. My Volvo transfer back to Abu Dhabi was faultless, however.

q&a a new frontier in tourism

Rosemary Behan expands on Emirates’ new daily direct service to Yangon:

When did the new service launch?

The daily service to Yangon – Myanmar’s commercial capital and the country’s largest city with a population of 7.2 million – launched on August 3. It takes the carrier’s network in South-East Asia to 12 cities in seven countries.

What else is there to know about this route and how much do tickets cost?

After stopping in Yangon, the aircraft continues to Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, and returns the same way. The Yangon-Hanoi sector takes just under two hours. Return tickets from Dubai to Yangon cost from Dh2,500 return in economy class and from Dh10,150 return in business class.

Where is Myanmar?

Myanmar, known until 1989 as Burma, is situated between Bangladesh and Thailand. It has northern borders with India, China’s Yunnan province, Tibet and Laos. It is South-East Asia’s largest mainland nation. Until about five years ago, Myanmar was under military rule and international sanctions. Elections this year put Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy into power.

Why go now?

Previously, most visitors to Myanmar had to travel via Bangkok. Tourist visas can now also be obtained online. But as with all countries newly opened to tourism, it’s only a matter of time before the prime tourist sites of Bagan and Inle Lake begin to lose their charm.


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