Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, Dinh Viet Thang, said it would take at least two more years for airlines to open direct routes to the US due to various issues.
The problem was discussed at the conference about sustainable development for the aviation industry held by the Ministry of Transport on December 11.
The US is a large market with huge potential. However, Thang said they would have to meet many requirements to open direct routes. Vietnam and the US signed an agreement in 2003 in which the two countries could launch one direct flight a day or go through two or three transit points via a third country (except Japan) in order to reach the US.
In early 2019 Vietnam was officially granted Category 1 status by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). With this status, Vietnamese air carriers will be able to open direct air routes to the US. Noi Bai and Tan San Nhat airports have also been assessed and met security standards.
As of now, only Vietnam Airlines has the experience and ability to operate 2-engine aeroplanes that can fly over the ocean.
“Other carriers must gain experience to operate such planes for at least 18 months in order to open direct routes to the US. Bamboo Airways is going to receive the Boeing 787-9 so they will only meet the requirement 18 months later, not to mention other requirements,” Thang said.
The carriers also have to follow various procedures, some of which will take from four to six months to complete. Thang said the carriers must assess the market carefully since they will face fierce competition. The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam will create favourable conditions for the carriers.
Duong Tri Thanh, director of Vietnam Airlines, said they had carried out research about direct flight routes to the US since 2001 and started several procedures since 2010. However, they still can’t make any commitment right now.
United Airlines and American Airlines had opened direct routes to Tan Son Nhat Airport but had to shut down later due to losses. Carriers in Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia had had direct routes to the US but only the Philippines-US route remains until now.
According to Thanh, the current planes aren’t profitable. It is best to wait for new models like the Boeing 777X and Airbus 350-1000 which will be put into the market in 2022. It is also not easy to complete all the procedures and requirements from the US.
Deputy Director of Vietjet Air Dinh Viet Phuong said their current and near-future focus is to use narrow-body aircraft on five to six-hour routes.
“We still have the dream to open a direct air route to the US and who knows, maybe one day we will succeed,” he said.
Prof. Nawal Taneja from the US said economic problems were still key factors. Instead of targeting passengers visiting family members, carriers must target business people and those who are willing to pay USD3,000 for each flight so that they can reach the destinations faster.