VIENTIANE, 17 January 2017: Lao PDR’s Department of Civil Aviation says its priority is to encourage more international airlines to serve the capital Vientiane.
In an interview with Vientiane Times the department claimed there were more direct flights to Laos, many of them charter flights during the peak tourist season November to April.
Flights from China are on the increase. Previously, only China Eastern Airlines operated flights, but now Sichuan Airlines and Hainan Airlines, both serve the country direct from China.
Civil aviation officials are keen to see more airlines serve the capital to balance traffic to Luang Prabang, the country’s main tourist destination. Most airlines prefer to fly to the World Heritage town as flights quickly turn a profit, although there is a significant dip in bookings during the monsoon season June to October.
Up until 2015, traffic rights were difficult to obtain particularly to Luang Prabang where there was virtual ban on low-cost airlines. However, 2016 saw a change in policy and low-cost airlines opened services from neighbouring countries.
South Korea airlines serve Laos with both schedule and charter flights. Japanese airlines previously offered charter flights.
Foreign airlines have access to three locations in Laos – Champasak, Luang Prabang and Vientiane, it added.
Airline seat quotas on flights between Vientiane and Bangkok have been increased in a bid to promote trade, investment and tourism between the two destinations.
Thai and Lao PDR officials approved, last year, a revised Thai-Lao accord that increases the ceiling on seat capacity on routes between the two countries to as many as 14,500 seats weekly depending on the route.
The agreement paved the way for designated carriers, registered in both countries, to add more flights on routes that have been restricted for years.
The seat capacity ceiling on the Bangkok-Vientiane route increased more from 2,100 to 14,500 seats weekly. Most of the flights use A320 with a maximum of 200 seats.
On the Bangkok-Luang Prabang route, the weekly ceiling increased from 1,000 to 10,000 seats.
The seat quotas for other customs and immigration enabled airports increased from 450 to 2,100 per week.
Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia operate flights to and from Laos there are two airlines; Lao Airlines and Central Airlines.
Raising the seat capacity ceiling will now allow Thai Smile and Nok Air to apply for traffic rights.
Thai Smile introduced a new flight connecting Bangkok to Luang Prabang, a world heritage town in Laos starting 16 January.
The airline offers four weekly flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday using an Airbus A320 aircraft on the route.
According to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, arrivals to Laos were expected to reach 4.3 million by the end of last year, representing an increase of 4% over 2015.
Foreign visitor arrivals increased from 2.7 million in 2011 to 4.1 million in 2015.