Don't delay Hanoi airport reopening, experts advise

By Doan Loan   October 6, 2021 | 05:57 pm PT
Don't delay Hanoi airport reopening, experts advise
Aircraft park at Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi, September 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Many experts say a prolonged delay in reopening Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport would hinder the aviation sector's plan to resume domestic flights to boost economic and tourism recovery.

Their statement comes in the wake of the capital city saying it was not ready to have the Noi Bai Airport resume operations.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) had sought the opinions of 20 provinces and cities that have airports on the plan to gradually resume flights on domestic routes.

So far, Hanoi is one of three localities that have called for postponing the reopening, along with Hai Phong City and Gia Lai Province. The capital city fears it's too risky a move at a time the focus remains on preventing further spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, Tran Quang Chau, chairman of the Vietnam Association on Aviation Science and Technology (VAAST), said that since the government has switched from a zero-Covid strategy to living with the pandemic, it was necessary that localities resume economic and transport activities to adapt to the new normal.

"Hanoi is the capital and the center of the country and it should not be isolated in terms of air travel and other modes of transport. We need to open up between localities and move forward with the international community for economic development and foreign affairs," Chau said.

"This is an urgent matter after four months of strict pandemic prevention measures," he added.

Concurring with Chau, Nguyen Bach Tung, an airport design researcher, said passenger numbers at Hanoi's Noi Bai and HCMC's Tan Son Nhat, the country’s largest airports, account for 60 percent of the total number of passengers at airports across the country.

In 2019, the year before the onset of the pandemic, Noi Bai welcomed more than 29 million passengers while Tan Son Nhat received more than 41 million, showing the travel demand of people was very high on the north-south route.

"As the government shifts from a zero-virus strategy to living safely with the pandemic, the delay in reopening the Noi Bai Airport would cause stagnation of economic activities," Tung said.

Furthermore, the Noi Bai Airport not only serves the needs of people in Hanoi but also many northern provinces. Therefore, the continued closure of the airport would affect travel demand of the whole region, not just Hanoi, he said.

Le Dang Doanh, former head of the Central Institute for Economic Management, proposed that the transport ministry works with Hanoi authorities to come to an agreement.

"If necessary, the ministry should directly seek permission from Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, because the north-south route is very important and significant for the country's socio-economic development," Doanh said.

A representative of budget airline Vietjet Air said airlines have been badly affected by the pandemic and it was essential to resume domestic flight routes soon to help them survive.

"The most effective way is to reopen the north-south route to serve people's needs and stimulate the country's economic development. I believe Hanoi will consider a reasonable solution," said the representative who wants to remain anonymous.

As the latest Covid-19 outbreak raged, aviation authorities had in late August instructed airlines to stop selling tickets until further notice.

In the fourth wave that began late April the country has recorded over 818,000 Covid-19 cases.

With the pandemic situation improving, many localities including HCMC have lifted most Covid-19 related restrictions to kickstart the economy after months of slowdown.

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