Laos’ new high-speed train takes passengers away from national carrier Lao Airlines – Smart Aviation Asia-Pacific

Laos’ national flag carrier, Lao Airlines, has cut a domestic passenger route, arguing that the country’s new high-speed rail line has caused it to lose business.

Lao Airlines said in a statement that it stopped serving the Vientianne-Oudomxay route due to high fuel prices and because it lost traffic on the route to the country’s new high-speed rail line.

The China-Laos high-speed railway line officially opened in December and connects the city of Kunming in southwestern China with Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The rail line runs through central Laos and stops at several major locations and towns such as Oudomxay, a northern province of the country, and Luang Prabang, the country’s former capital and second largest city.

When Lao Airlines posted on its social media that it had dropped the Vientianne-Oudomxay route, many locals commented on social media that they are switching to the train service because it is cheaper.

Lao Airlines Commercial Director Noudeng Chanthaphasouk said Vientiane time the airline tried to salvage the three times a week Vientianne-Oudomxay service by offering promotional fares, but it still had only 15 to 20 passengers on each ATR 72, which seats 70 passengers.

He says passenger traffic on the Vientianne-Luang Prabang route has also dropped significantly due to competition from the train, but the airline plans to retain daily service for the foreseeable future. The airline serves the route using ATR 72s.

The airline on its social networks, in terms of domestic flights, indicates from Vientiane that it has eight times a week service to Luang Prabang, daily service to Luang Namtha, four flights a week to Xieng Khuang, 11 flights a week to Pakse, and six flights a week to Savannakhet.

State-owned Lao Airlnes has recorded consecutive annual losses, a problem compounded by the pandemic and rising fuel prices.

The government set up a committee in August – led by Deputy Finance Minister Dr Phouthanophet Xaysombath – to restructure Lao Airlines to stem the airline’s losses.

Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh also told the country’s National Assembly in June that the government planned to sell up to 49% of the airline, which he said was a drain on public finances.

But since June there has been no further public statement from the government regarding the sale of shares in the airline.

Editor’s Comments: Lao Airlines having only seven or eight flights a week on the Vientiane-Luang Prabang route is quite dismal when it was the airline’s busiest domestic route with at least four flights a day .

With only one flight per day, the carrier is unable to provide convenient connections to Luang Prabang for international travelers arriving in Vientiane.

The background image, from Wikipedia, shows the Chinese-built CR200 bullet train at Vang Vieng station in Laos.

Jose P. Rogers