Vietnamese carrier operates first charter flight to China after five months

By Anh Tu   July 21, 2020 | 01:11 am PT
Vietnamese carrier operates first charter flight to China after five months
Chinese passengers onboard the charter flight which departs from Hanoi to Nanjing in China, July 18, 2020. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines.
Vietnam Airlines's charter flight to China's Nanjing airport last Saturday marked the first such exchange between the two nations since the suspension of aviation activities in February.

Flight VN5729 picked up 275 Chinese passengers from London and transited in Hanoi before transporting them home to Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, the same day, a representative of Vietnam Airlines said Tuesday.

This marked the first Vietnamese passenger flight to China since the country suspended all aviation activities to China in early February after the first Covid-19 infections were reported last December in Wuhan, the source added.

The aircraft flew empty on its return as Vietnam's doors remain closed to international tourists to contain the second wave of Covid-19. All flight crew were quarantined upon landing in the country.

Vietnam Airlines staff in China said they had made extra efforts to obtain a license for this flight because very few international routes were allowed to resume inside China to prevent Covid-19 infection.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had allowed the resumption of commercial flights to and from China after five months of Covid-19 shutdown. Aviation authorities in Vietnam and China are working to discuss the frequency and conditions of transporting passengers.

The Transport Ministry last week also proposed commercial routes between Vietnam and some Asian destinations, including China's Guangzhou City, recommence in August, with all passengers to be quarantined on arrival.

An anonymous Vietnam Airlines official said the charter flight to Nanjing resulted in a decent revenue for the airline and served as an important step in the negotiation process to resume international flights between the two countries.

Vietnam Airlines is seeking an urgent VND12 trillion ($518 million) bailout from the government as the coronavirus continues to hit its income.

It is likely to report a loss of VND13 trillion ($561 million) this year, with revenues falling by half from last year to around VND50 trillion ($2.2 billion), CEO Duong Tri Thanh said.

In Vietnam, the aviation industry has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines served 14.6 million passengers in the first six months, down 46 percent year-on-year, according to the General Statistics Office.

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