Summer 2016 brings a range of new air connections to Laos due to the launching of new routes. Laos is still one of the least served markets for air carriers across the world. After looking for many years to protect national carrier Lao Airlines by controlling access for other carriers, the Laotian government changed its strategy last year, allowing new carriers to enter into the country. The more liberal approach in aviation will mostly benefit to Luang Prabang, Laos former royal capital, as well as to Vientiane, the country’s capital and a growing business and tourism destination. However, 2016 will mostly see added capacities to Luang Prabang.
The most important move is Thai AirAsia which started serving Luang Prabang out of Bangkok Don Mueang international. The low cost carrier will directly compete with Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways –on a seasonal basis- and Lao Airlines. However it is so far the only LCC in the market, offering fares which can be 50% cheaper than competition. The airline already unveiled to launch in the coming month a Bangkok-Vientiane flight while Malaysia AirAsia is looking at serving Kuala Lumpur-Luang Prabang. The airline is likely to start in June with four frequencies a week.
Two more airlines will launch frequencies to the former royal historical capital. Singapore-based Silk Air will offer a circular route linking Singapore to Vientiane and Luang Prabang. It will be the first time that Luang Prabang is linked to ASEAN financial metropolis.
HK Express also plans to launch services to Luang Prabang by the end of 2016, providing a first non-stop link to Hong Kong. It will also provide connections to Japan, Korea and Mainland China. While Thai Airways International is due to transfer all of its Lao frequencies to its subsidiary Thai Smile.
Meanwhile, competition will heat up on Vientiane-Bangkok as Bangkok Airways already announced to launch a second flight between both capitals. Lao Airlines flies the route twice a day but rather concentrate now on North Asia. Laos national carrier opened last year four new routes from Vientiane to Changsha, Changzhou as well as to Busan in South Korea. It also start flying last year from Luang Prabang to Chengdu. The carrier is now planning to fly Vientiane-Nanning (Guangxi province) before the end of the year, adding another important connection for the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Lao Airlines is also studying the addition of new flights to Japan and Taiwan.
For the summer season, Vientiane has a total capacity of 117,000 seats per month to 21 destinations while Luang Prabang will have a total air capacity of 39,000 seats per month to 7 destinations.
Graphics: Monthly seat capacities for top destinations out of Luang Prabang and Vientiane (June 2016, in %)
(Source: FlightmapsAnalytics.com 03/16)