Air KBZ Flight # 266 Heho-HEH to Mandalay-MDL
After a relatively early (to our ordinary days in Myanmar) wake up call, we checked out of Inle Resort and began the trek to the airport. We asked the concierge to help us arrange transportation ahead of time but the resort car was unavailable, so they booked us a taxi that actually came out to be a bit cheaper ($30) than the hotel provided ride ($35).
The best part of rising early in Myanmar is that the weather is just about always perfect, even feeling crisp and refreshing at times.
The ride took us back through Nyanungshwe, winding around a few of the small mountains to Heho Airport. The journey lasted about an hour, putting us to Heho by around 8:05 a.m — plenty early for our 9:25 a.m. departure.
We arrived to a pretty hectic check-in scene. The airline desks were small with only about 4-5 counters and hardly enough space for the glut of passengers that come at the peak departure times. The airport was a good bit smaller than Bagan’s but significantly smaller than Mandalay International.
Having secured our boarding passes, we threw our bags into a messy pile at the security screening. This next process was almost laughable: we sent our bags through the scanner (security agent chatting with buddies, not “screening” much of anything) and then entered the quick metal detector. The metal detector beeped on me since I had my pockets pretty much loaded down with a phone, camera, money clip, etc… but the uninterested guard just waved me through. Easy for me but not feeling like the skies are too safe around here.
Heho Airport was well equipped for collecting tourism dollars in just about any way possible. Besides a few souvenir shops, they also had a wine bar and coffee stand. Although Myanmar isn’t known for their wines at all (and I suspect that about 0% of the population drinks wine), they’ve picked up on the fact that their European visitors happen to be quite fond of the stuff and are happy to assist in taking their money in exchange for a warm glass of red.
It was in this airport that I had the best cappuccino / espresso-based coffee drink of the whole Myanmar trip. While I thought the instant stuff was growing on me, one sip of the jet fuel that is espresso had me seeing clearly again.
Finished with our $3 cappuccinos, we got the call for boarding and headed out onto the tarmac towards on ATR 72-500 aircraft at 9:05am.
As we made our way up the boarding ramp, we were handed moist towelettes and proceeded down to the nearest empty seats, settling on 9-A and B.
This ATR 72-500, in contrast to the one we flew from Bagan to Heho days before (Asian Wings Airways # YJ 881: Bagan-NYU to Heho-HEH, Myanmar), looked almost brand new with leather seats that were in fantastic condition. This was confirmed when we got home: it flew its first flight in Dec 2014 –just about 4 months before our trip.
Maybe Asian Wings Airways and Air KBZ have common ownership, or the ATR 72-500 is just a really popular aircraft in Myanmar for whatever reason. The seat back magazine alluded to their being a few codeshare flights with the 2 carriers.
We departed right at 9:25 a.m. (the scheduled departure time) and were wheels up within 3 mins to begin our very short, 84-mile (135 km)/ 30 minutes hop over to Mandalay.
The scenery was pretty interesting:
We landed in Mandalay a short 24 mins later which, on a purely $/min or $/mile point of view, makes this $72, 84-mile flight astronomically expensive.
Upon touchdown, we grabbed our bags in the deserted (but quite modern) claim area:
BOTTOM LINE: We enjoyed flying on the nearly brand new plane from Heho to Mandalay. Although it was a bit expensive in terms of the distance, it sure beat the 2nd best option of taking a very long bus ride.