Asian airlines are stepping up flights between different Asean nations in response to surging demand for travel in the region, particularly to emerging economies such as Laos, Indonesia and newly opened up Myanmar.
Bangkok Airways plans to resume flights between Bangkok and Vientiane in Laos from December 1, having last operated this route four years ago, according to industry website Airlineroute.net. The daily flight will leave Bangkok at 0815 and arrive in Vientiane at 0930, with the return leg leaving at 1010 and landing 1125.
Lao Airlines announced that from November 4 it will start a three-times weekly flight from Vientiane to the major Vietnamese port of Da Nang, with stops at the Laotian cities of Savannakhet and Pakse on the way. The flight will leave Vientiane at 0700 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays to arrive in Da Nang at 1040, with the return leg leaving at 1140 to land back in the Laotian capital at 1520. Earlier this month, the airline increased its flights between Singapore and Vientiane to four times a week (see here).
Singapore Airlines (SIA) and its regional subsidiary SilkAir are both expanding their service in the region. On September 5, SIA said that seven of its 16 weekly flights to Yangon would be operated by a larger 323-seat B777-200 widebody aircraft, which will increase capacity on its flights by 55 per cent.
“Demand has been growing strongly for both business and leisure travel to Myanmar, and Singapore Airlines looks forward to serving the country for the first time,” said Mak Swee Wah, SIA executive vice president, commercial.
In September last year, the airline also boosted capacity on its Singapore to Jakarta route by introducing an eighth daily service. A spokesperson said that Asean was an important region for the airline.
Meanwhile, SilkAir has also been expanding its regional flights. In June this year, it launched a three-times-weekly flight between Singapore and Hanoi in Vietnam (see story here).
An airline spokesperson told Business Traveller that SilkAir was planning to make capacity adjustments during the winter to meet growing demand. From October 28, it will increase frequency of flights between Singapore and Chiang Mai from three to four flights per week. It will add an additional flight from Singapore to Siem Reap via Danang on Tuesdays.
“We are anticipating a growing demand amongst leisure and business travellers in the ASEAN region and SilkAir remains optimistic on the growth potential,” the spokesperson said. “Indonesia will remain as a key player within the region, but SilkAir expects travel demand to surge in emerging markets such as Myanmar as well.”
She added that the Asean open skies agreement, due to take effect in 2015, was expected to further boost air travel in the region. The ASEAN nations have also been contemplating introducing a single visa scheme which would allow visitors from foreign countries to travel to all the different nations using just one visa. It has been suggested this might be put in place as early as next year.
AirAsia has similarly been steadily increasing its services between Asean nations. So far this year, it has launched new flights from Kuala Lumpur to Lombok, Semarang, Da Nang, and Surat Thani, as well as from Bangkok to Mandalay. Its Philippine subsidiary has also launched four new routes within the country.
“This further establishes AirAsia’s position as an Asean airline,” a spokesperson for AirAsia said.
On August 7, the airline showed its commitment to expansion in the Asean region by establishing a regional base in Jakarta. It said the move was part of its plan to focus on regional growth.
“The establishment of the AirAsia Asean office in Jakarta as our regional base is to help to more fully deliver on our pledge – Now Everyone Can Fly – to all the people of Asean and beyond,” said Tony Fernandes, AirAsia’s group chief executive officer. “We seek to expand our footprint throughout the region.”