Vietnamese airlines, travel firms bank on international flights

By Nguyen Quy   December 17, 2021 | 04:31 pm PT
Vietnamese airlines, travel firms bank on international flights
Vietnam Airlines staff welcome foreign tourists arriving at Da Nang International Airport, November 17, 2021. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines
Vietnamese carriers and travel firms are preparing to revive their businesses on the premise of the government approving the resumption of international flights.

A representative of national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines said the government's decision to reopen regular international flights from January 1 was a positive sign for the recovery of Vietnam's aviation industry.

The airline has "fully prepared resources" for the resumption, said the rep who did not want to be named.

From November until next month, the carrier will operate a total of 15 commercial flights to bring foreign tourists to Quang Nam, Quang Ninh, Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa and Da Nang City – destinations approved for reopening to international visitors.

The carrier is also ready to reopen flights to Northeast Asia and the U.S. where the vaccination rate is very high and there is high demand for repatriation among overseas Vietnamese, especially during Tet, or the Lunar New Year holiday.

Dang Ngoc Hoa, chairman of Vietnam Airlines, said at a recent extraordinary general meeting of shareholders that the reopening of regular flights meant the very survival of the carrier. Before the Covid pandemic struck, international flights used to account for 65 percent of the carrier's total revenues, he noted.

Hoang Ngoc Thach, commercial director of Bamboo Airways, said the airline has secured flight slots at major airports in the U.S. and France; and it has also purchased wide-body aircraft in preparation for resuming international flights.

After nearly two years of grounding regular international flights, the government last week approved the January 1, 2022 resumption of commercial flights between Vietnam and nine destinations with high vaccination rates and good pandemic control measures in place.

From January 1, regular flights are scheduled to resume to San Francisco or Los Angeles (the U.S.), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Vientiane (Laos), Beijing/Guangzhou (China), Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (South Korea), and Taipei (Taiwan).

In the second phase, scheduled from January 16, will add flights on routes connecting Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Hong Kong, Paris (France), Frankfurt (Germany), Sydney (Australia), and Moscow (Russia).

Travel firms excited

Besides the carriers, travel firms in the country also see the resumption of international flights as a lifeline for tourism recovery after nearly two years.

They are hoping to welcome more foreign tourists to the country next year.

Nguyen Nguyet Van Khanh, deputy marketing head at major travel firm Vietravel, told VnExpress International that the firm plans to welcome four groups of tourists from Southeast Asian countries in January and February to Phu Quoc Island in the Mekong Delta province Kien Giang.

"In order to welcome international tourists next summer, Vietnam needs to officially reopen regular international flights and relax entry regulations that allow fully immunized tourists to be exempt from quarantine," she said.

Vietravel, which has begun operating its own airline, also expects to bring back European tourists to Vietnam next April.

Pham Duy Nghia, director of Hanoi-based tour operator Vietfood Travel, said his company plans to organize charter flights to bring foreign tourists to Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province next month.

Tourists can book a tour package of six days or seven days to enjoy a vacation at sequestered resorts and on luxury cruise ships in Ha Long Bay, a world heritage site.

Doan Thi Thanh Tra, Marketing Communications Director of HCMC-based Saigontourist Travel Service Company, said when the government agreed to resume international flights, some of the company's partners from Europe booked tours to Vietnam from March to May next year.

"This is a positive sign for Vietnam's tourism," she said.

Vietnam grounded all international flights in March last year, allowing only Vietnamese citizens, foreign experts, investors, and highly-skilled workers to come in on special flights.

Since the country reopened to international tourism last month, over 1,100 visitors have arrived on commercial flights, and the tourism industry expects to welcome back 15,000 tourists by the end of this month.

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