Thai AirAsia request to serve Luang Prabang, Laos old royal capital and a major tourist attraction, finally paid off: the airline announced during a press conference in Bangkok on Tuesday to have finally secure its entry into Lao PDR with a daily frequency from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport to Laos only UNESCO World Heritage City. For many years, Laos has been reluctant to open up its air transport to low cost carriers in a bid to protect the interest of its own national carrier. The AirAsia was until now only present with a daily flight from Malaysia AirAsia to Kuala Lumpur while Thai AirAsia demand for frequencies was systematically rejected.
“We negotiated for many years- I would say every year- to obtain traffic rights to any cities in Laos out of Bangkok”, indicated TAA CEO Tassapon Bijleveld in an exclusive interview with ASEAN.Travel. “We started to perceive changes from Laotian authorities a couple of months ago as they now realize how much benefits it would bring to tourism to have also low cost carriers offering more services to their country”, he added.
TAA has asked for traffic rights to four cities: Vientiane and Luang Prabang are considered as priority markets as well as Savannakhet and Pakse in Southern Laos. “We first received traffic rights for Luang Prabang and we are absolutely delighted to be able to launch our first flights from March 24. I am now confident that we soon will be able to fly to Vientiane”, stressed Bijleveld.
The Luang Prabang route will be in connection at Don Mueang with seven other ASEAN countries offering easy transfer thanks to AirAsia Group Fly-Thru service. “We totally support the expansion of low cost business to secondary destinations as we know that it generates a positive economic impact on local communities”, said Amonthep Chawla, Senior Vice President for the bank CIMB Thai.
The Luang Prabang route could mark the start of a promising Mekong year for Thai AirAsia. “We see great growth potential around the Mekong region as tourism demand and economic growth continue. We should in fact be able to serve new routes this year. I mentioned earlier Vientiane but we are confident to be able serving Danang in Central Vietnam in the very near future. We are also confident about the new Myanmar government’s commitment to tourism development. I am sure that tourism and air transport will continue to be high on Myanmar economic agenda. That could eventually translate into the opening of additional airports to international airlines such as Bagan or Ngapali, two destinations we would love to served”, told Tassapon Bijleveld.
Outside the Greater Mekong Subregion, TAA AirAsia just announced the launch of two new daily flights from Hat Yai to Chiang Rai and Johor Bharu in Malaysia. Both flights will take off from April 1. The arrival of the first Airbus A320neo (a long range version for flights of over four hours) during the first quarter will also translate into new services, especially to China and India.