Gov’t Continues Search for Lao Airlines Partner

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo 

The government is still seeking a qualified partner to jointly operate Lao Airlines in a bid to achieve more efficient and profitable operation of the national flag carrier, according to a Vientiane Times report.

Several potential foreign investors have expressed interest in forming a joint venture with the Lao government, a source at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said.
The interested parties are based in China, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.

A decision has not yet been made on the selection of a partner, the source told Vientiane Times.

The government cabinet heard a report at its monthly meeting for May last week about current developments in the matter, from a committee in charge of improving Lao Airlines.

“We have held talks with the interested parties but a decision concerning a selection has not been reached,” the source said.
The door is still open to interested investors as the government is looking for the most qualified partner.

The party selected will be one that can demonstrate efficient operation of an airline and has a strong financial record.
“The cabinet has suggested that the search for the most qualified partner should continue,” the source said, referring to the suggestion made at last week’s meeting.

It is still unclear what size stake in Lao Airlines the government would sell to a foreign partner, the source said, adding that this was negotiable.

Government spokesman Prof. Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher said foreign airlines with the appropriate credentials were welcome to form a joint venture with Lao Airlines.

Established in 1976, Lao Airlines has four Airbus 320s and seven ATR aircraft, according to a report from the airline in June last year.

The airline flies to Cambodia, China, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Domestically, Lao Airlines operates flights to the provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khuang, Savannakhet and Champassak.

In recent years the number of people using Lao Airlines has surged. 

In 2010, about 412,000 people travelled on Lao Airlines and the figure climbed to over 531,000 in 2011, while in 2012 the number of passengers rose to more than 658,000. In 2015, more than 828,000 passengers flew with Lao Airlines including more than 504,000 foreign customers. The number rose to 924,924 people in 2016, of whom 543,422 were foreign nationals.