YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s state-owned national carrier has changed its name in a rebranding exercise, the company president said Friday, as the airline tries to attract foreign investment in the face of stiff competition from private rivals.
Myanmar Airways, the state controlled airline for the last 66 years, has renamed itself Myanmar National Airlines (MNA).
“We changed the name according to the law approved by the parliament. It has been in effect since December 8 according to the law,” Than Tun, managing director of MNA, told AFP.
The airline was established in 1948 and currently operates mostly domestic services using Fokker F28 jets and ATR turboprops.
The rebranding is part of an ongoing makeover for the carrier that has gone on a recent spending spree as it eyes international routes.
In February it announced it would upgrade its fleet by leasing 10 Boeing 737s aircraft in a deal worth nearly $1 billion. Delivery of the planes is scheduled to begin in June 2015.
The airline also signed a deal in July for up to a dozen new-generation ATR propeller-driven planes at the Farnborough airshow.
The carrier’s sole international destination currently is Gaya in India, an important site for Buddhist pilgrims.
Myanmar has seen a rapid rise in both domestic and international passenger growth rates since decades of junta rule ended in 2011, bringing with in an influx of tourists.
Analysts say that the rebranding is a way to stand out from an increasingly busy crowd as Myanmar opens up to a slew of private operators.
“It’s a way to differentiate itself as the national flag carrier,” Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst at Standard and Poor’s Capital IQ, told AFP.
In a statement the company also announced that it had set up a new board of directors which, it said, would give it more leeway to make decisions independently of the Ministry of Transport – although the airline remains under government ownership.
Yusof said the move looked like “a first step towards attracting foreign investment”.
“What airlines in Myanmar need are foreign investment, expertise and know-how. And I don’t think there is any shortage of interest as the country is the last frontier in ASEAN when it comes to airlines,” he said.
Myanmar President Thein Sein has overseen a series of dramatic reforms since taking office in 2011, including the release of political prisoners and the election of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
In response, the West has begun rolling back sanctions. Foreign firms are lining up to invest and overseas visitors are flocking to the country, putting a strain on its fast-growing but overstretched aviation and tourist industries.