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Is Vietnam Airlines ready for non-stop flights to the US?

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Vietnam’s aviation authorities are expected to receive a CAT1 aviation certificate soon, but the readiness of domestic air carriers is still unclear.

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Reuters in early February 2019 cited its sources from the US government as reporting that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may give an aviation safety supervision level 1 certificate, or CAT1, to Vietnam soon.

Leaders of the Civil Aviation Authorities of Vietnam (CAAV) have confirmed the news with the local press, saying that Vietnam and the US would announce the ratification through diplomatic channels.

However, the CAT1 certificate is not enough for the Vietnam-US direct air route to start operating. Vietnam’s airlines will have to apply to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch direct flights to the US. If they are approved, they will then have the right to fly to the US. 

To be able to fly to the US, air carriers must use aircraft models such as the Boeing 787-9 or Airbus A350. These are extra wide body (EWB) aircraft that can be used for long-distance flights such as the US-Vietnam flight which lasts about 13 hours, depending on the destination.

Zing quoted its sources as reporting that Vietnam Airlines is the only Vietnamese air carrier with EWB aircraft capable of providing non-stop or one-stop flights. 

Vietnam Airlines has in recent years often mentioned its plan to fly directly to the US. However, a source from Vietnam Airlines said the carrier is still awaiting CAT1 and has not set the exact time for its first flights.

Providing non-stop flights to the US is also part of the development strategies of Vietjet Air and Bamboo Airways. However, they do not have EWB aircraft. 

An analyst said that even if Vietnam’s airlines satisfy technical and legal requirements, they may still hesitate to provide commercial flights because of the low business effectiveness.

Vietnam Airlines has said that if it provided non-stop flights to the US, the carrier would incur losses of up to $30 million in the first five to 10 years.

Direct flights are not commercially promising for domestic airlines because international airlines provide transit flights at very competitive prices. If Vietnam’s air carriers want to provide direct flights to the US, they will have to pay high costs but charge lower airfares.

Meanwhile, to fly to the US, carriers will have to restructure their aircraft transport capacity, and reduce the number of passengers and volume of cargo, which would lead to lower profits.

This explains why several other Southeast Asian countries, which have more developed aviation and tourism industries than Vietnam, are not interested in non-stop flights. Indonesia and Thailand, for example, do not have direct air routes to the US, while Malaysia plans to stop its direct flights to the US.



Source: VietNamNet

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