The airline was founded by the government after independence in 15 September 1948, as the Union of Burma Airways (UBA). It initially operated domestic services only, and international services were added in 1950. The name was changed to Burma Airways in December 1972, and to Myanma Airways on 1 April 1989 following the renaming of the country from Burma to Myanmar. International services of Myanma Airways have been made as joint venture airline, Myanmar Airways International (MAI). Myanma Airways is the majority shareholder of Joint Venture Company MAI, set up in 1993. In 2003, it was proposed to set up a Myanmar-based airline for chartered international passenger and cargo flights, which was planned to be called Air Myanmar. What would have been a joint-venture between Myanma Airways and private investor was abandoned in 2005.
In mid-2012, Myanma Airways ordered to lease two new Embraer 190AR from GE Civil Aviation Services Co.Ltd, that replaced its Fokker F-28 from November 2012. On February 11, 2014, at the Singapore Airshow, Myanma Airways signed a $960 million deal with GECAS for 6 Boeing 737-800s and 4 Boeing 737 MAX planes. The deal is the largest commercial sale by a US company to Myanmar in decades and is the largest single aircraft order in the history of Myanmar's aviation industry. In December 2014, Myanma Airways re-branded itself to Myanmar National Airways.
On 26 June 1954, Douglas DC-3 was hijacked by members of the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO, later the Karen National Liberation Army). After the killing of Saw Ba U Gyi in 1950, the first president of the Karen National Union (KNU), the group sought to regain both a political initiative and financial leverage. Three KNDO members - Major Saw Kyaw Aye, Captain Thein Kyaw and Captain A Nyein - planned to hijack a plane, and use it to smuggle illegal weapons. They successfully hijacked the plane, and forced its British pilot Captain A.E. Hare to land on a deserted beach, after other group members had failed to build a suitable temporary runway in Karen. Finding 700,000 Burmese kyat in metal chests in the cargo, cash being transported between bank branches, they confiscated this and then let the plane take off. Censorship banned reporting of the story for over 50 years, but in April 2014 it was the subject of the book The World's First Hijacking, and is being developed into a Hollywood-produced film under the same title.
The former Burma Airways had a poor safety record but now, as Myanma Airways is strongly maintaining its safety under ICAO and Myanmar DCA regulations and requirements:
On 23 May 1969, Douglas DC-3 XY-ACR crashed on approach to Lashio Airport killing all six people on board. The aircraft was operating a domestic non-scheduled passenger flight.
On 16 August 1972, a Douglas C-47B, registration XY-ACM, crashed shortly after take-off from Thandwe Airport on a scheduled passenger flight. Twenty-eight people on board were killed and only 3 survived.
On 24 August 1972, Vickers Viscount XY-ADF of Union of Burma Airways was damaged beyond economic repair at Sittwe Airport when it departed the runway on landing and the undercarriage collapsed.