Lion could start new airline in Myanmar or Vietnam

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With its Thai unit set to start operations by the end of 2013, LionAir is looking at Vietnam and Myanmar as potential countries where it could start its next airline.

The carrier says it has not started talks with any players in the two markets at present, but adds that both Vietnam and Myanmar "are of interest" because of their large market size.

Myanmar alone has a population of around 53 million but has relatively few commercial aircraft. Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database shows that the country only has 43 passenger aircraft in service, mostly made up of older ATRs and A320 family jets.

“We see that Myanmar and Vietnam both have huge growth potential,” says a Lion spokesman. “Having a presence in Vietnam and Myanmar could work well, because if we have an airline in those markets, they can draw on the resources of the group.”

He adds that should the group start an airline in either country, there is a "good chance" that their first international routes will be to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, where Lion already has affiliates or subsidiaries.

Lion placed an order for 234 Airbus A320 aircraft this March. Earlier, it also entered into a deal with Boeing for up to 380 737 family aircraft, comprising 230 firm orders and purchase rights for an additional 150 jets.

At that time, its president director Rusdi Kirana told Flightglobal Pro that he plans to start a number of new airlines in Asia Pacific where the aircraft on order will be deployed.

Lion has also expressed interest in the Bombardier CSeries and says it could make a double digit order by the end of 2013.

Besides its core low-cost business in Indonesia, and its new full-service Batik Air, Lion also has Malaysian unit Malindo Air. It has received the air operator's licence for its Thai unit and plans to start operations by the end of the year.