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Lao Airlines takes off with new routes to Korea, China
Publication Date : 02-10-2012
Lao Airlines will soon open new routes to the Republic of Korea and China as part of the airline's expansion goals in response to growing market demand.
Flights will operate from Vientiane to both Seoul and Busan, with both sectors expected to begin service in December this year. A flight from Vientiane to Guangzhou in China is also planned, possibly as early as November.
Director of Lao Airlines' Commercial Department Saleum Tayarath told Vientiane Times last week the national carrier will use the 142-seat Airbus on these routes.
“There is strong passenger demand for our airline to fly these routes,” he said, noting that although Korea's Jin Air runs a charter flight between Vientiane and Seoul, it will not affect passenger numbers on Lao Airlines flights.
“We have a different strategy and market. Our team in Korea conducted a survey and found that 70 to 80 per cent of passengers would choose to travel with our airline,” Saleum said.
The Laos-Korea flights will run three times a week but Saleum was unable to say on which days as the schedule is yet to be finalised.
More people in Korea and Laos are opting to visit each country for holidays or business purposes, he said. Koreans come to Laos not only to see its many tourist attractions, but also to do business here.
In the first quarter of this year, about 14,000 Koreans visited Laos, a 46.66 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, about 2,000 Lao nationals have visited Korea so far this year.
China is another potential market for Lao Airlines, with affordable flights. Lao Airlines operates two routes to China, from Vientiane to Kunming and from Luang Prabang to Xieng Houng.
Mr Saleum said the Vientiane-Kunming sector is now carrying a lot of passengers after Lao Airlines bought two Airbus planes this year. This success inspired the opening of the Vientiane-Guangzhou sector.
“The new Airbus has created a lot of passenger confidence in our airline,” he said.
In 2001, some 500,000 people travelled with Lao Airlines and this figure could rise to about 900,000 this year, Saleum predicted.
Lao Airlines is currently looking at whether to buy or rent another Airbus this year, to allow for further growth.
Saleum said the airline is not only focused on market expansion but also on bringing its standards in line with those accepted internationally.
Lao Airlines must position itself to compete in 2015 when an open skies policy within the Asean region comes into force under the policy of market integration.
Currently, Lao Airlines operates flights mainly to other Asean member countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore. It also operates charter flights to and from Japan, aiming to boost visitor numbers from that country.