Vietnam-Czech direct flight delayed as Covid-19 spreads its wings

By Hoang Phong   March 12, 2020 | 01:43 am PT
Vietnam-Czech direct flight delayed as Covid-19 spreads its wings
Bamboo Airways is scheduled to launch Hanoi-Prague direct flight on April 26, 2020. Photo courtesy of FLC Group.
Budget carrier Bamboo Airways has delayed the launch of its direct flight from Hanoi to Prague until April 26.

The private airline said in a statement Wednesday that the postponement was prompted by the spread of the novel coronavirus epidemic in Europe. The original launch date for the flight between the capitals of Vietnam and the Czech Republic was March 29.

After Bamboo Airways received permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) to become the first airline in Vietnam to launch such a direct flight between the two countries, it has put tickets are on sale in Vietnam from February 5, and in overseas markets from February 10.

The Hanoi-Prague route, with two flights a week, is set to use the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The expected durations are 11 hours and 20 minutes for the Hanoi-Prague flight and 10 hours and 20 minutes for the return flight, significantly shorter than the 14-19 hours taken now, using connecting flights transiting in a European or Middle Eastern city.

More than 80,000 Vietnamese live in the Czech Republic now, making Vietnamese the third biggest minority group in the country, generating demand for air travel between the two countries.

Europe is wrestling with the Covid-19 epidemic, with Italy, France, Germany being hotspots.

Vietnam Airlines, the only Vietnamese carrier operating direct flights to Europe, is set to reduce the number of weekly flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to the U.K., France and Germany by 14, starting March 25.

Flights are being curtailed in large numbers with Vietnam suspending visa waivers for citizens of eight European countries: Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, and the U.K. starting Thursday.

In a tougher move, President Donald Trump Wednesday suspended all travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days starting this Friday, except for US citizens and travelers from the U.K, in response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

The Covid-19 outbreak has thus far spread to 124 countries and territories around the world, killing more than 4,600 people. The World Health Organization has just declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

Vietnam has recorded 23 new novel coronavirus patients in the last six days, bringing the total to 39, 16 of whom were discharged weeks ago.

Launched in January 2019, Bamboo Airways now operates flights on 34 domestic and international routes. It has conducted more than 20,000 flights to date with over 3 million passengers. In just one year, the airline reported pre-tax profits of VND303 billion ($13 million).

A recent report by Mastercard said Vietnam has the second fastest growing outbound market in the Asia Pacific region after Myanmar, with projected annual growth of 9.5 percent between 2016 and 2021. The firm also forecast that 7.5 million Vietnamese will travel outside the country in 2021.

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