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AirAsia happy with growing passenger numbers to Laos

Managers of low-cost Malaysian airline AirAsia are satisfied with the number of passengers it has carried in over a month since it opened a new direct flight between Vientiane and Kuala Lumpur.

The airline's statio n manager in Vientiane , Mr Anolak Kingsada, said on Monday that the number of passengers travelling with the airline between the two cities had been large enough and steady since the airline began the flight in December.

He was speaking to Vientiane Times after the airline held a concert last week to celebrate its launch in Vientiane .

Mr Anolak said the number of passengers travelling with the airline ranged from 100 to 150 on each flight, below the full seat capacity of 180.

Most of the passengers are Malaysian business owners and tourists from Malaysia and other countries; only 20 percent are Lao, he said.

Mr Anolak said that the airline was planning to launch marketing campaigns to attract more passengers, especially those who want to travel to Singapore , Indonesia and the Philippines , and can get a connecting flight at KL airport.

He said the flight to Bangkok was more expensive than the Vientiane-Kuala Lumpur roundtrip, which cost from US$120 to US$170, depending on the day.

He also said the airline would invite Malaysian journalists to visit Laos next month to report on tourist sites in the country, as a way of encouraging Malaysian tourists to visit Laos and increase the number of passengers tra velling with the airline.

“There will be also an official launching ceremony of the airline's business in Laos ,” he said.

The decision of AirAsia to open the Vientiane-Kuala Lumpur route was the second attempt at improving transportation between Laos and Malaysia ; the first airline to run flights between the two countries, Malaysian Airlines, stopped operations in 1998 due to the Asian financial crisis, which hurt the tourism industry and discouraged investment in the region.

Director General of the Lao Aviation Department Yakua Lopangkao said the decision to resume flights from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane had been due to the growing relations and cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the areas of tourism and business.

Malaysia is the ninth largest investor in Laos , with interests mainly in hotels and hydropower facilities, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

AirAsia operates three flights a week, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with more planned for the future, possibly in the form of daily flights to meet the growing demands of tourists coming to Laos.

Local and international airlines operate direct flights from Laos to China , Cambodia , Vietnam , Thailand and Malaysia.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy

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