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BANGKOK, 8 May 2012: Lao Central Airlines, the first Lao private airline, owned by bankers, Phongsavanh Group, took off 3 May starting with a flight to Bangkok.
Lao Central aims to operate a mix of regional and domestic services from its base in Vientiane. After the Bangkok inaugural flight it said it was starting domestic services to Luang Prabang, 7 May and to Pakse next month.
The carrier has two leased Boeing 737-400s and according to an order placed May 2010, it is due to take delivery of smaller Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet-100s in second half of this year.
Thai AirAsia asked for permission to operate flights to the Lao capital, but failed to secure rights from the Lao government. Now there are two Lao airlines flying the route between the two capitals, the low-cost airline might file a new request.
There are only a few regional airlines serving Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport such as AirAsia (Kuala Lumpur); China Eastern Airlines (Kunming and Nanning); Jin Air (Seoul); Vietnam Airlines (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phom Penh) and THAI (Bangkok).
Lao Central’s Bangkok-bound flight departs at 0910 and returns to Vientiane at 1125. Flight duration is one hour.
From 7 May, it started its first domestic route, Vientiane-Luang Prabang, that was served only by Lao Airlines. The carrier will initially offer three flights weekly until 21 May when it will lift capacity to daily. This flight departs Vientiane at 1515 and returns from Luang Prabang at 1715. Flight duration is 30 minutes.
Lao Central launched it website www.flylaocentral.com, but the booking engine was still inactive when TTR Weekly checked.
The airline has an office at Central World co-located with other business units of Phongsavanh Group. The contact number is 02 6461558-9. However, it is an administrative rather than a sales office.
According to its website, Lao Central Airlines positions itself as a premium low-cost airline offering on-board services to passengers. At the beginning, the airline was supposed to hire a management team from Thailand with experience in the airline industry. Within three years around 80% of the staff should be Lao citizens. It believes it can break even on operational costs within three to four months, an optimistic assessment in view of rising fuel costs and the drop in travel to Laos during the rainy season months..
The new Lao airline is also considering flights to Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Singapore.
The airline was originally called Phongsavanh Airlines after the owner group, Phongsavanh Group which owns a chain of banks in Laos, but made its fortune from timber concessions in Laos and then in construction.
- New Lao airline powered by Thais Chicago Tribune