Lao Airlines Trimmed its Network as Passengers Demand Falls

Laos, air transport, coronavirus, Lao Airlines

Lao Airlines State Enterprise reduces its network and wants to cut on costs by asking its employees to take several days of unpaid leave.

Plummeting passengers’ number are affecting Lao Airlines, although the Laotian government continues to claim to have 0 coronavirus cases. Last month saw a 37 percent reduction in the number of passengers travelling on international routes. “We have asked everyone in the company to take at least one week’s unpaid leave so that we can reduce our outlay. We hope that everyone will cooperate with this request from the board as I’m sure they understand the situation,” Director of the airline’s Commercial Department, Mr Noudeng Chanthaphasouk, said recently to local newspaper the Vientiane Times.

“We will organise people’s leave so that staff take it in turns to have a week off. This way it won’t affect our operations,” he explained to the newspaper.

Many international flights from Laos, including to South Korea and China, have been suspended, reducing the number of passengers from 61,000 in February last year to about 38,000 last month. The number of people flying on domestic routes has also fallen.
“We had about 40,000 passengers on domestic flights in February last year but there were only 31,600 people flying last month as some events were postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus,” Mr Noudeng said.

Lao Airlines hopes passenger numbers will pick up now that flights from Vientiane to Kunming and Guangzhou are back in service.
“We have resumed flights to Kunming and Guangzhou but we have reduced the number of flights to match the number of passengers. We’re now flying to Guangzhou three times a week whereas before we had one flight a day. We have two flights a week to Kunming, down from three a week previously,” Mr Noudeng added.

According to the Department of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, 60 percent of seats on a flight must be booked to make the flight viable. But on some routes only 10 to 20 people made reservations so the airline suspended those flights.

In addition, the number of flights from other countries into Laos has fallen by about 348 flights a month compared to the same period last year. “Last year about 848 flights arrived in Laos each month but starting in January this year about 348 flights have been cancelled each month,” Director of the Air Transport Division, Mr Soukkhongthong Voraphet, told to the Vientiane Times.

Only South Korea has suspended all flights to Laos. Other countries’ airlines are still flying into Laos but some have cut the number of flights. Carriers from Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia continue to offer frequencies to Laos. However, Bangkok Airways already announced to suspend from the end of March its daily flight Bangkok-Vientiane.

“We haven’t banned any flights operated by foreign airlines but some countries have suspended flights because of policies put in place by their governments to prevent the spread of Covid-19. They have advised people not to travel overseas, so of course the number of passengers has shrunk dramatically,” Mr Soukkhongthong added.

(Source: The Vientiane Times)