Wattay International Airport in Vientiane become increasingly crowded

The existing facilities were built some time ago and are unable to comfortably accommodate the growing number of passengers and aircraft passing through the airport. The domestic terminal was built before 1966, while the international terminal was built around 1998, Lao Airports Authority Director General, Mr Kongkham Norlaphoum, told Vientiane Times on Monday.

To accommodate more passengers and provide a larger waiting area, the government is planning to expand the international terminal and demolish the domestic terminal. With the rapid expansion of the Lao economy and increasing investment, the number of tourists and overseas businesspeople coming to Laos is growing, and it has become necessary to upgrade the airport to cater to the increasing traffic.

In 2010, Lao Airlines recorded a total of only 500,000 passengers on their flights, and 600,000 in 2011, but by 2012 the figure had reached 900,000.

Lao Airlines has improved its services and opened up more links within the region. It has added new routes, introduced more flights on existing routes and bought new Airbus and other aircraft. As the airline adds more flights, the departure lounge and the arrivals hall are becoming more crowded. Passengers are also having to wait longer to get through im migration as queues build up.

The Lao and Japanese governments are currently in discussions about financing for the airport upgrade. Construction of the new international and domestic terminals is expected to get underway in the next few years, said Mr Kongkham.

“We don’t know yet how much the project will cost because no studies have been done yet,” he said.

He believes studies will be undertaken soon following agreements by the Lao and Japanese governments.

“Our priority now is to provide passengers with faster services, including check-in and checkout, visas and flights,” he explained.

Officials from the sectors involved will discuss the new systems at a meeting to be held by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in the coming months.

The government received grant aid from the government of Japan last year and a low interest loan from the government of China to create an aircraft parking space capable of accommodating large planes ahead of the ASEM Summit.

Currently Lao Airlines has scheduled international flights to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand; Singapore; Siem Reap in Cambodia; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam; Kunming and Guangzhou in China; and Seoul and Busan in the Republic of Korea.

Within Laos, the airline flies to Bokeo, Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khuang, Savannakhet and Champassak provinces. Lao Airlines plans to open flights to Myanmar and to Phnom Penh in Cambodia in the near future.