Vietnam's aviation authority grounds extra Tet flights due to overloaded airports

By Doan Loan   January 6, 2017 | 04:03 pm GMT+7
Vietnam's aviation authority grounds extra Tet flights due to overloaded airports
A Vietnam Airlines aircraft prepares for landing in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters/Kham

Vietnamese carriers asked to add 2,400 domestic flights for the Lunar New Year holiday, but half did not make the cut.

Vietnamese airlines have asked for a 17 percent increase in flights scheduled for the Lunar New Year festival, but aviation authorities have only approved half of that figure due to strained infrastructure.

National carrier Vietnam Airlines and low-cost services Jetstar and VietJet have registered an extra 2,400 domestic flights between January 16 and February 12 to serve increased demand for the holiday, which is three weeks away.

But the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam has only approved 1,270, or 8.5 percent more than the normal schedule.

Tan Son Nhat, the country’s biggest airport, will have to take 1,065 of those flights, or a further 38 flights every day during the holiday. The extra flights are expected to take off at night as the airport is jammed during the daytime.

The airport is expected to receive 807 flights on its busiest day this season, up more than 11 percent from last year.

Ho Quoc Cuong, head of the CAAV’s Air Transport Department, said the Ho Chi Minh City airport is already overloaded and cannot handle more flights.

“If the carriers have already sold tickets for their planned extra flights, they will have to reschedule and make alternative arrangements with customers, we will not intervene,” Cuong said.

The agency has allowed Vietnam Airlines to add 380 domestic flights during the holiday, Jetstar 330 and Vietjet 560.

Vietnam Airlines said it had accounted for the limit and the decision would not affect its services. However, VietJet, which had applied for double the approved number, and Jetstar, which was hoping for three times the figure, said some of their customers would have to be pushed from day flights to night services.

Tet is the most important holiday in Vietnam and many people travel home for family reunions and vacations.

The upcoming Year of the Rooster will begin on January 28. The government has approved a seven-day break from January 26 to February 1.

The country is expecting 450,000 air passengers a day during the season.

Vietnam’s airline market is growing at the third fastest pace in Asia-Pacific, but the country is grappling with an acute dearth of airport capacity.

Domestic passengers are estimated to have soared 35 percent to 28 million in 2016, accounting for more than half of the total air travel in the country.

The country is working on a design for a massive airport in Dong Nai Province, which neighbors Ho Chi Minh City, to share some of the heavy load on Tan Son Nhat, but construction could take years.

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