Review: Engaging Myanmar – Yangon Airways 917 Yangon to Bagan ATR 72

Introduction
Dragonair 252 A321 Economy Class Hong Kong to Yangon
Inya Lake Hotel Yangon
Yangon Airways 917 ATR 72-212 Yangon to Bagan Nyaung-U
Hotel Umbra Bagan
Teaching in Myanmar
Yangon Airways 910 ATR 72-212 Bagan Nyaung-U to Yangon
Myanmar Life Hotel Yangon
Dragonair 251 A321 Economy Class Yangon to Hong Kong


While I was excited to get on my first turboprop (I think I don’t need to rehash that), I was less excited about the early takeoff time. Fortunately, I couldn’t sleep that night due to excitement taking over, which worked for me.

At 4:30AM we grouped onto the bus. While in theory you can get to the airport much closer to departure, group check-in time ranges from two minutes to an hour, so we decided to be there as soon as possible.

The Inya Lake Hotel had packed us some breakfast boxes. Neither of us was hungry, but we were informed that there would be lots of children asking for food outside the domestic terminal, so we decided to bring them there.

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Yangon Airport Domestic Terminal Exterior

However, the police got rid of the children, apparently (cringe). They also said the mother was there, so we could give her our boxes though we couldn’t find her so just left our boxes on the bus.

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Yangon Airport Domestic Terminal

The domestic terminal was definitely cultural. It featured a few check-in booths below a really high ceiling.

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Yangon Airport Domestic Terminal Check-in Area

My friend (and roommate on the trip) Ayan and I were assigned seats 4B and 4A respectively. Our boarding passes didn’t have names on them, which definitely helped with the sketchiness…

Along with that we were also passed Yangon Airways stickers.

After checking in the lot of us made it through immigration, which was quick (interestingly everyone got a patdown, so I just complied). I was through by 5:05AM for my 6:10AM flight, so I had about an hour to spare – and as team leader I had all the passports, which meant I wasn’t going to catch any sleep. Looks like our check-in was more towards the two-minute ones than the hour-long ones…better safe than sorry, I suppose.

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Yangon Airport Domestic Terminal Waiting Area

There were seven flights running from Yangon to Nyaung-U Airport from 6AM to 7AM. SevenIf all seven were ATR 72-212s, I’d like to see an A380 on the route. 😉

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Yangon Airport Domestic Terminal Billboards

Right outside the terminal was a Golden Myanmar Airlines A320, while all the turboprops were situated a bit further from the station.

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Golden Myanmar AIrlines A320 Yangon Airport Domestic Terminal

I went upstairs to the airport’s coffee shop and had a (terrible) apple danish, which set me back a mere 1000 MMK (HK$6).

Soon boarding was announced at the gate, where people started piling up (another Bagan flight was boarding at the exact same time though I was one of the first few people that realized we were separate from the other Bagan flight). The bus wasn’t crowded, presumably because the plane was half full, and had a capacity of 70 people.

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Yangon Airport Domestic Terminal Bus to Plane

The sun was just starting to rise as we boarded the plane, which made for stunning pictures. The people who boarded later definitely would have got even better pictures, though I wanted to make sure I covered up the cabin in pictures before people boarded.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Yangon Airport

Boarding happened through the back door.

Yangon Airways Flight 917
Monday, November 16th, 2015
Origin: Yangon (RGN) Gate: 2 Dep: 06:10 (06:15)
Destination: Bagan Nyaung-U (NYU) Gate: A Arr: 07:30
 (07:35)
Duration: 1 hr 20 min (1 hr 20 min)
Aircraft: Aérospatiale/Alenia ATR 72-212
Seat: 4A/5D (Economy Class)

While the colours were standard blue with airline-branded headrests much like one would expect on a low-cost carrier, I got on pretty chirpily, especially with high hopes for teaching the kids when getting there.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class

4A and 4B were naturally on the left side, and 4C and 4D were on the right side. The seats reminded me of old train seats – they weren’t heavily padded (which isn’t a good thing, to be clear), but they reclined, and were wide and comfy enough for an hour long flight.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Seats 4A and 4B

The cabin was still completely empty, as people were still taking their time to get off the bus.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Cabin

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Cabin

Legroom was adequate, though what I most appreciated were the overhead air nozzles, which I got on all four of my flights. It’s amazing how much this is overlooked on flights these days.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Legroom

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Air Nozzles

I couldn’t help but notice the PSA advertising around the cabin. While I support the companies, they seemed weird and misplaced.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Human Trafficking PSA

All the ATR-72s were “fighter jet configured”, in which they were lined up in a staggered fashion in the tarmac. That really got me excited.

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Yangon Airport Traffic

The propeller on the right side was already spinning, but it wasn’t until the aircraft was almost fully boarded that the left propeller started spinning too.

I took a few minutes to admire the 20-year-old aircraft, which apparently hasn’t been refitted in all its time. Well then…

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Cabin

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Seatbelt Sign

Soon the cabin started filling up. Everyone seemed to be sitting near the back, so there were a few seats that were left empty. I left Ayan alone in his seat, then jumped to the aisle across, one row behind, in 5D. On the minus side, the approach was much more scenic on the left side, but Ayan’s a good photo taker, and it’s a small price to pay for twice the amount of space.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class View from Seat 5D

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class View from Seat 5D

I was expecting the door to reopen and passengers to start swearing at me for being in their seat, but that never happened. The load was slightly more than half full – there was no one in the first row (assuming that was because there’s a “no electronic policy” during takeoff and landing which doesn’t fare well with an amazing sunrise), there was a local on the left side of row 2, rows 3-5 were filled with one person on each side (some of the people with us were in 3A, 3D, 4B, 4D and me), rows 5-7 were packed and each row behind until row 16 had one person on each side.

We sat there for quite a bit after boarding, which I spent glaring at the Myanmar National Airlines Boeing 737 (which is coming to Hong Kong).

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Myanmar National Airlines Boeing 737-800 Yangon Airport

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Myanmar National Airlines Boeing 737-800 Yangon Airport

There was a manual safety demonstration, and the aircraft, finally, after sitting there until past its scheduled departure time, rolled over to the runway. It was a short taxi to the runway though I spent that time trying to notify my mom that I was departing.

By the time flight mode was on and the camera was back on, we had left the ground and I was face to face with the sunrise.

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

If the windows weren’t as dirty as they were, it would have been the perfect scenario. Unfortunately, it was a price I was willing to pay given my extra seat on the flight (factoring in the fact that most turboprops offer domestic first class in a 1-2 configuration, I was getting more space than I would in domestic first class).

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

The glow got harsher as we went above the clouds, but that made for better photo colours. If I have to endure such a glow on a ten hour flight I wouldn’t be pleased, though on a short flight like this one I carry more of a “photographer mentality” than a “passenger mentality”.

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

The views definitely made for artsy photos…

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

…and photos that scared the sh*t out of my friends (guys, the propeller went curved).

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Sunrise climbing out of Yangon Airport

After the seatbelt sign went off I used the lavatory. The lavatory is interesting in which it uses a water flush, yet the sink is probably louder than a beached whale.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Lavatory

While the air nozzle on the Airbus A330 lavatory was unnecessary enough for me, this one left me speechless.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Lavatory

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Lavatory

The tray table on the Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 is fully functional and one of the larger ones I’ve seen in economy. It’s probably pretty good for working with.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Tray Table

Soon the meal service came. The flight attendants told us to “enjoy our chicken sandwich”. I had my chicken sandwich with a glass of water. The chicken sandwich was served with a cake which couldn’t have looked or tasted more disgusting, though the chicken sandwich itself was good.

Here’s my thoughts on Yangon Airways’ meal service. Many airlines try to overcomplicate their meal service and come up with something weird. Other airlines just box up a few biscuits for you and call it a day. For an hour long flight on a turboprop, I found Yangon Airways to have created the perfect balance between taste and simplicity. A simple meal with a simple (yet inedible) dessert makes it for me, in my opinion.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Chicken Sandwich

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Chicken Sandwich

Service throughout the flight was pretty much like an assembly line, as expected. However, the flight attendants all spoke decent English and were really friendly. It puzzles me why they’re forced to deliver assembly line-like service if they have the capability to do so much better.

I spent the rest of the time staring out the window. Woah, this cloud porn is erotic!

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Views Enroute to Bagan

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Views Enroute to Bagan

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Views Enroute to Bagan

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Views Enroute to Bagan

Soon we were on our descent into Bagan – the views down were just as scenic as the views along the way, if not more. Ayan’s pictures from the left side also helped.

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Cabin upon Descent

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

If you look closely at these photos from the left side you can see all the temples pretty closely.

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Descent Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Final Approach Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Final Approach Bagan Nyaung-U

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Views upon Final Approach Bagan Nyaung-U

We touched down around schedule at half past seven. While I was chirpy and really excited to meet my new students, everyone else was more or less dead.

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Bagan Nyaung-U Airport Runway

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Cabin After Landing

It was a slightly longer taxi over to the gate, but it was a new airport, so I could stare at all the traffic on the runway. Among the traffic was a Golden Myanmar Airlines ATR 42, a Myanmar National Airlines Embraer 190 and an Air Mandalay ERJ 145.

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Golden Myanmar Airlines ATR 42 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

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Myanmar National Airlines Embraer 190 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

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Air Mandalay Embraer ERJ 145 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

We got to a remote stand and were ushered onto a bus, where we were loaded pretty lightly (the buses can handle way more than the ~40 people on the flight).

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Standard Class Cabin upon Deplaning

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

It was pretty nice to see the plane that had flew us 500 kilometers.

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Yangon Airways ATR 72-212 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

I sat near one of the window seats on the bus, which meant, without the windows, I could get crystal clear views of the aircraft we passed by. These were more or less the aircraft we passed by on the plane.

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Air Mandalay Embraer ERJ 145 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

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Air KBZ ATR 72-500 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

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Golden Myanmar Airlines ATR 42 Bagan Nyaung-U Airport

After the bus ride we were immediately onto the tarmac, where our bags were delivered separately to the bus.

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Bagan Nyaung-U Airport Terminal

BOTTOM LINE ON YANGON AIRWAYS’ ATR 72

Overall I found the flight more of an #avgeek flight than anything else. It was where I could admire the huge engines, the beautiful sunrise when taking off, and the planes when on the bus on the tarmac – much less of the actual service.

That said, I found the service pretty substantial, and it definitely exceeded my expectations. Yangon Airways was definitely more “full-service” than I expected, and I would definitely look forward to a flight on them if I had to. That said, it’s definitely not an airline I would “route out of my way” to take.

I’d be surprised if the service and food weren’t near the top of the competition, though I’d really like to try another airline if I do end up flying there again in the future.

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