Bokeo International Airport Launch Overshadowed by Sudden Flight Cancellations

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Bokeo International Airport Launch Overshadowed by Sudden Flight Cancellations
The opening ceremony of the Bokeo International Airport (photo: Lao National Radio)

Amidst the much-anticipated inauguration of Bokeo International Airport on 5 February, excitement was dampened by the sudden announcement of the indefinite termination of Bokeo-Vientiane flights by Lao Airlines.

The newly inaugurated Bokeo International Airport, situated in the Tonpheung district of Bokeo province, spans a 300-hectare site near the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone.

The ceremony to commemorate the airport’s opening saw participation from several high-ranked government officials, notably Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone who cut a ribbon to launch the airport officially. 

Lane Xang Airways International offers frequent flight service between Vientiane and Bokeo for an estimated USD 200 each way. It is expected that the airport will expand its services to include international flights in the future.

Lao Airlines also planned to launch daily domestic flights on this route on 6 February for only LAK 1,700,000 each way. However, Lao Airlines disclosed that the Vientiane-Bokeo route and its counterpart would be halted “until further notice” without explanation for the sudden cancellation, leaving passengers and the public bewildered.

This unexpected move triggered speculation among the public as the airport was built by the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (which also owns Lane Xang Airways International), and social media users speculated about the true reasons behind this decision. While some wondered whether the abrupt cancellations were influenced by the Special Economic Zone, others speculated that the airport might be anticipating the arrival of Chinese airlines.

Bokeo International Airport’s terminal can accommodate 600 people and is anticipated to handle 1.5 to 2 million passengers each year when fully operational. The airport’s construction, initially set for completion in 2022, faced delays due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the setback, Bokeo International Airport holds significant potential for economic growth and improved connectivity in the region.