VIENTIANE, 11 July 2017: No surprises low-cost airline, Thai AirAsia, betters the competitors on the Bangkok-Vientiane route offering the lowest roundtrip fares starting at USD109
A check of roundtrip fares for flights to the Lao PDR capital, this September, indicates Thai AirAsia is a good USD53 cheaper than Lao Air.
All airlines serving the Bangkok-Vientiane route use Airbus A320s with very little differences in flight and ground handling costs.
Ironically when a passenger books a seat on Thai Airways International the fare is around US202, or USD28 more than what Thai Smile quotes for the same flight.
THAI handed over the Bangkok-Vientiane route to its subsidiary airline as it attempted to reduce operating costs on regional routes. However, the change means loyal THAI passengers are paying more than passengers who book direct with Thai Smile for a seat on the same aircraft.
Even with a seat allocation, a snack and 20 kg of luggage, Thai AirAsia is still ahead when compared with all flights on offer to Vientiane. There are no differences in flight time, ground service and handling content at airports.
For a flight time of 1 hour and 10 minutes, the full-service airlines have a hard sell when, apart from meal service, the inflight product and aircraft are pretty much identical.
The same story applies on the Kuala Lumpur-Vientiane route where AirAsia has a commanding fare lead with a quote of USD117 for the two-hour and 45 minute flight between the two capital cities in September.
Once a leader for serving tourists in Southeast Asia through its popular Bangkok hub, THAI is not faring so well on the Kuala Lumpur-Vientiane route. The roundtrip fare is around USD215 with a departure out of Kuala Lumpur at 2055 and an overnight stop in Bangkok to connect with a flight to Vientiane the following morning. Flight time 16 hours and 55 minutes.
The return flight works out better with a departure out of Vientiane 1320, a change of plane in Bangkok and arrival time of 1950 in Kuala Lumpur. Flight time five hours and 30 minutes.
Low-cost airlines are not competing on the Singapore-Vientiane route. SilkAir offers the best roundtrip fare at USD208. The outbound direct flight takes two hours and 50 minutes, while the return leg with a transit stop in Luang Prabang has an overall flight time of five hours.
THAI’s best quote out of Singapore is USD203 with a change of plane in Bangkok. The end-to-end flight time is five hours and 50 minutes. However, the return sector is a disaster for time-starved travellers. The 2130 departure from Vientiane means an overnight stay in Bangkok to connect with a flight that gets the traveller in Singapore at 1430 the following day. Flight time 16 hours.
THAI can improve the return flight time to 12 hours and 45 minutes by offering a connection with its 1145 departure out of Bangkok. The fare quote for that option is USD234. You save four hours travel time on the return journey by paying an extra USD31.
SilkAir is changing the landscape of holiday travel from Singapore to Laos offering better flight times and lower fares. This has seen a pick up in holiday bookings from Singaporeans in both Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
Wherever low-cost airlines fly they bring to the market not only lower fares, but also direct flights and shorter travel times. Legacy carriers are failing to compete with this regional trend believing travel through their hubs is the more efficient business model. Not so for the traveller and in the end as low-cost airlines offer more direct flights, legacy carriers are in danger of becoming irrelevant on regional routes.
Add to this trend, the decision by AirAsia to launch corporate travel with fast track check immigration and check-in, the erosion will continue.
(Source: Fare quotes via Skyscanner)