Lao Government Seeks to Restart Flights at Shuttered Attapeu Airport

Lao Airlines Xian MA60

Lao Airlines Xian MA60 at Pakse Airport. Photo: Christian Hanuise.

The Lao government wants its national airline to resume flights to a small airport in the country’s southeastern Attapeu province, though operations were suspended a year ago because of low passenger numbers and mounting debt, a government official who manages Laos’ airports said.

Lao Airlines had started operating regularly scheduled service to Attapeu International Airport near the borders of Vietnam and Cambodia twice a week from the capital Vientiane via Pakse in April 2016.

At first, the number of passengers rose to 30 from seven per flight after Lao Airlines increased the number of flights to the airport to three per week from two per week, said Somboun Daosawan, a manager in charge of airports throughout the country at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

But the airline suspended the flights several months later because few, if any, passengers were flying into or out of the area, he said. The last commercial flight to the airport landed on Oct. 26, 2016.

“The reason [for the suspension] is because the number of passengers had fallen sharply, and Lao Airlines was unable to shoulder the debt,” he said.

Now that the government wants Lao Airlines to resume service at the airport, it has asked Vientiene to subsidize its debt, Somboun said.

“We have proposed to the government that if Lao Airlines restarts the Attapeu flights, the government should help subsidize its debt,” he said. “The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is playing a role in submitting the request to the government, but the government has not yet responded.”

Lao Airlines, however, does not want to restart the flights because they are not profitable, he said.

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Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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