Vietnamese pilot skills among reasons for thousands of delayed flights

By Anh Duy   July 14, 2022 | 05:31 am PT
Vietnamese pilot skills among reasons for thousands of delayed flights
Passengers wait to complete check-in procedures at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi in late June, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Vietnamese pilots have occupied runways longer than needed while airplanes were not parked in order, causing thousands of delays in June, aviation authorities said.

More than 5,600 flights operated by Vietnamese airlines were delayed last month, accounting for 18.2 percent of total services operated by the country's six carriers, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV).

The figure was up 15.9 percent year-on-year and up 9.4 percent from last month.

Low-cost carrier Vietjet Air had the industry's highest rate of flight delays at 24 percent, followed by Vietnam Airlines with 20.1 percent.

In most cases, flights were delayed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Minh Tan, deputy head of CAAV, said the issue of delayed flights at Tan Son Nhat is "quite serious" as he attended a Wednesday meeting on the matter.

He said apart from overloaded infrastructure, the arrangement of parked aircraft "is not reasonable" as planes that take off first are located far from the runway while those departing later are placed closer.

There were cases in which a plane spent as long as 15-20 minutes only to move from the parking lot to the runway, he said.

Bui Thanh Ha, head of the air traffic control department of Southern Region Air Traffic Services, said another reason for the issue is pilot skills.

In the latest survey conducted at the airport, a Singapore airline's plane left the runway in 60 seconds after landing, while Vietnamese pilots needed nearly 70 seconds.

During takeoff, air traffic controllers have to calculate to save every second though Vietnamese pilots still spend 10-15 seconds on average to start running.

"It is clear that our pilots do not have an awareness of saving time," said Ha.

Dinh Viet Son, another CAAV deputy head, said if there are heavy downpours at Tan Son Nhat and airplanes cannot land, air traffic controllers should decide not to let airplanes designated to land at Tan Son Nhat depart.

Because in that case, those airplanes would have to circle, a situation that would exhaust passengers and cause carriers to waste extra money on fuel, he said.

Vietnam Airlines Deputy General Director Trinh Hong Quang blamed its flight delays on the market bouncing back "beyond all forecasts." Carriers were unprepared for such a boom in travel demand, Quang said.

In the first six months of the year, the number of passengers through domestic airports reached 40.7 million, up 56 percent over the same period last year.

Around 1.8 million were international passengers, up 904 percent.

CAAV Head Dinh Viet Thang said each airport now has to come up with a specific set of rules to deal with runway occupation.

At Tan Son Nhat and Hanoi's Noi Bai airport, pilots must make sure they leave the runway within 60 seconds after landing, and take off within 30 seconds.

Thang said as the infrastructure remains limited, CAAV would have to reduce flight numbers, citing similar actions done to deal with travel boom in other countries.

"It is very hard to accept the fact that a flight from HCMC to Cam Ranh airport in Khanh Hoa took only 45 minutes but passengers have to wait several hours," he said.

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