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Lao Airlines is the smallest national carrier of any airlines within the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Small but with a dense network of domestic and regional destinations with a particular focus on China PRC.
Lao Airlines remains an important player in its home market as the airline has been for a long time protected by local authorities which denied to give traffic rights to other carriers, particularly to low cost carriers.
But times have changed over the last five years and the accelerating integration of Lao PDR in ASEAN and the Greater Mekong Sub-region have forced local authorities to open up the Laotian market to competition. They are now 16 airlines flying on a regular basis to Vientiane Wattay International Airport, Laos main international gateway.
In the last decade, Lao Airlines modernized its fleet and on board product. The carrier has now a fleet of 11 aircraft, including four Airbus A320, three ATR72-600 and four ATR72-500. The corporate image has also been changed with aircraft showing since 2011 a Frangipani flower – Lao national flower- on the tail.
Lao Airlines flies this summer to 13 international destinations and another six domestic destinations from Vientiane Wattay International Airport. Laos national carrier links also Luang Prabang Airport to 9 international and 2 domestic destinations.
In recent months, Lao Airlines strengthened its position into China with the launching of new routes and frequencies. The carrier offers already more flights to China than to any other airline in Lao PDR with 18 frequencies per week. From Vientiane, the airline flies to Kunming with a daily frequency as well as Guangzhou with three weekly flights as well as to Changsha and
Changzhou with one flight per week to each destination. The carrier resumed flights from Vientiane to Shanghai with three weekly frequencies for the summer season. There is also a weekly service from Luang Prabang to Changsha as well as two weekly services to Jinghong (Xishuangbanna).
“We are expecting a significant increase this year because Laos’ tourist attractions are becoming more well-known and there are more activities of interest to tourists. These are being promoted by the government and private sectors as well as our airline for Visit Laos-China Year,” explained recently to the Vientiane Times, Noudeng Chanthaphasouk, Director Commercial Lao Airlines.
Within ASEAN, the carrier flies to both Bangkok and Chiang Mai offering flights to Vientiane and Luang Prabang. However, it recently stopped serving Bangkok from Savannakhet in Southern Laos. It still however flies three to four times a week to Pakse.
The carrier also flies on a daily basis from Vientiane to Phnom Penh but stopped the service between Luang Prabang/Pakse and Siem Reap. It has also a cooperation agreement with Vietnam Airlines to a route between Luang Prabang and Vientiane to Hanoi and links as well as Vientiane to Ho Chi Minh City via Pakse. The airline finally links five times a week Vientiane to Seoul. They are more frequencies and destinations during the high season, from November to March.
Future international expansion includes the launching of a route to Tokyo as well as to Jakarta.
On the domestic front, five cities are linked to Vientiane with the busiest being Vientiane-Luang Prabang with four to five frequencies a day according to the season; Pakse-Vientiane is flown up to twice a day while a daily service links Vientiane to Luang Namtha, Oudomxay and Xieng Khouang. Flights are however suspended between Vientiane and Savannakhet.
This article first appeared on www.baolau.com
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