US set to green-light direct flights from Vietnam

By Dat Nguyen   January 31, 2019 | 05:16 pm PT
US set to green-light direct flights from Vietnam
An aircraft prepares for landing at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters/Kham
U.S. aviation authorities are expected to grant a Category 1 rating to Vietnam soon, allowing direct flights between the two countries.

Two U.S. officials who asked not be named told Reuters that the permission should be issued in the coming weeks. 

Dinh Viet Thang, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), said that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed safety assessments in December and was supposed to provide the results this month.

"But as the U.S. government was closed, we couldn’t receive the results. We expect to have it soon," he told VnExpress International.

Local airlines including state-owned Vietnam Airlines, budget airline Vietjet and new private airline Bamboo Airways have already expressed interest in opening direct flights between Vietnam and the U.S.

The direct route is expected to cater to the large demand for travel between both countries. 

Passengers travelling between Vietnam and the U.S. now have to transit through different countries and territories like China, Hong Kong and Japan.

Vietnam has never held an FAA rating, unlike Thailand, which once had a Category 1 rating and is seeking to regain it after a downgrade to Category 2. The FAA determines whether a country has a 1 or 2 rating depending on its safety assessment of the country's airlines.

The Vietnamese government had early last year approved plans to expand the network of national carriers to major markets including Australia, China, Europe and the U.S.

Under plan, Vietnam Airlines will go through with its proposal to open non-stop services to the U.S., starting with direct flights to San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Vietnam and the U.S. signed an air transport agreement in 2003 to allow airlines to operate direct flights between the two countries.

In 2004, national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines sought permission from the U.S. to provide direct services. However, the request was denied because the CAAV did not meet safety supervision requirements set by the FAA.

Vietnam’s aviation industry has seen increasing demand in recent years. The country welcomed 12.5 million air passengers last year, up 14.4 percent from 2017, according to the General Statistics Office. 

The country’s aviation traffic increased 16 percent on average each year from 2010 to 2017, data from its civil aviation regulator shows.

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