SINGAPORE: Laos’ national carrier Lao Airlines will stop direct Laos-Singapore flights from Mar 25 due to “operational reasons”.
In a Facebook update on Monday (Mar 12), the airline said it will resume flight schedules “as soon as it is ready for operation upon further notice”.
This is the second time that direct flights between the two countries have been halted, and comes just five months after Lao Airlines relaunched direct Singapore-Lao flight services in late-October last year.
Until February this year, six daily flights were available between Laos and Singapore under a codesharing deal signed with SilkAir in July 2016. Currently, national regional wing SilkAir flies to Laos three times a week.
When asked if SilkAir will consider adding more frequent routes to Laos now that Lao Airlines’ services are no longer available, a SilkAir spokesperson said: “We are continuously monitoring the demand in the market and will review our operations as necessary to best serve the needs of the market.”
Lao Airlines had halted Singapore-Lao flights in early 2017, but various media reported that the company did not specify any reason for the cessation of those services. SilkAir also declined to reveal monthly passenger figures for the Singapore-Laos flight services between October 2017 and February this year, citing reasons of commercial sensitivitie
“Suffice to say, since SilkAir began operations to Laos on Oct 31, 2016, we have been seeing a healthy level of demand for the flights,” the spokesperson added.
The latest move came as Laos declared 2018 “Visit Laos Year”, a tourism campaign that could boost the economy of the landlocked country.
This year, Laos applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to list one of its attractions – Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang province – as a world heritage site.
Laos currently has two UNESCO world heritage sites: the ancient city of Luang Prabang, and the pre-Angkor Vat Phou temple complex in Champassak.
When asked how SilkAir plans to tap on Laos’ tourism campaign to boost its business, the spokesperson said: “SilkAir will continue to work with relevant partners to increase awareness of Laos to drive leisure and business traffic.”
National University of Singapore’s mobilities geographer, Assistant Professor Lin Weiqiang, said Lao Airlines’ decision to stop direct flights to Singapore may not have a big impact on both countries.
“I don’t think it has a huge implication in terms of numbers because they don’t have big aircraft to start with,” Asst Prof Lin said. “So we’re not talking about big numbers.”
“Singapore is definitely not the only market that it has, that it can woo,” he added.
“The Chinese market is much larger. In fact, it has grown exponentially – 7 per cent in the last year. We’re talking about numbers of about half a million. So this is the larger pie for them.”