Vientiane-Attapeu flights' wings clipped
Lao Airlines flights from Vientiane to Attapeu province have ceased due to a decline in passenger numbers, according to an official from the national carrier.
Passengers disembark from a Lao Airlines plane at Pakxe International Airport. (File photo)
Deputy Director of the airline's Commercial and Marketing Department, Mr Oudom Souvanthong, told Vientiane Times yesterday “The airline cancelled the flights in October because the number of passengers was decreasing.”
“Lao Airlines started flying from Vientiane via Pakxe International Airport in Champassak province to Attapeu province's International Airport twice weekly from May and increased that to three times a week in July 2016. Passenger numbers per flight averaged just 10, who were mainly local people and officials.”
“Right now the airline cannot confirm when regular services will resume, but we still plan to provide charter flights,” he said.
The closure of the Vientiane-Attapeu sector means that domestically Lao Airlines now only flies from Vientiane to the six provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khuang, Savannakhet and Champassak.
Attapeu International Airport was built in a province that has a population of just 139,000. It was handed over to the Lao government in 2015 by the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group (HAGL), which funded construction through an interest-free loan of more than US$36.1 million (almost 300 billion kip). Construction began in May 2013 and was completed in April 2015.
The airport is located in Xaysettha district, about 28km from the provincial capital along Road No. 18B, and can accommodate aircraft that have 70 to 100 seats.
By building the airport, the government hoped to spur socio-economic development in the area by attracting investment and boosting tourism, along with air freight services. The flying time of just over one hour was much more comfortable than the one and a half day bus journey from Vientiane to Attapeu, while it is only about 200km from Pakxe to Attapeu.
No planes from other domestic airlines or neighbouring country carriers have landed at Attapeu International Airport, with the new facility only handling Lao Airlines flights.
Laos has four international airports, namely Wattay in Vientiane, Pakxe in Champassak province, and another two in the provinces of Savannakhet and Luang Prabang.
According to a report from the Governor of Attapeu province Dr Nam Viyaket last year, the provincial economy was growing steadily with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaging about US$1,680 (about 13.6 million kip) per capita per annum.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update January 11, 2017)