Vietnam Airlines to schedule US flights
December 20, 2006
HA NOI — Vietnam Airlines plans to establish routes to the United States next year to satisfy projected blistering demand following recently-strengthened trade ties between the two countries and Viet Nam’s accession to the WTO.
The airline will submit a plan for direct US flights to the Prime Minister in two weeks, said the deputy director of the national carrier, Pham Ngoc Minh.
Officials expect the routes could play a significant role in strengthening political, social and economic ties between the countries.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung asked the company to accelerate the process and have routes established by the end of 2007, said Minh.
Last November, Vietnam Airlines sent a delegation to the US to examine possible flights to San Francisco or Los Angeles.
One hurdle Asian carriers will have to overcome in gaining a foothold in the lucrative American market is Westerners’ preference for domestic airlines. US carriers have, on average, around 12 million dedicated customers, according to the deputy director. Frequent customers of US carriers enjoy many benefits, including discounts at shopping malls, entertainment centres and restaurants, both at home and abroad, said Minh.
To overcome the initial stumbling blocks, Vietnam Airlines is looking to partner with American Airlines. In addition, the airline will likely seek a stop-over hub in another country.
Recently released trade figures have buoyed the hopes of the travel sector. According to the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism, some 352,000 Americans visited Viet Nam in the first 11 months of this year, up 15 per cent from 2005.
That figure is expected to double next year on the back of the repatriation of 1.3 million overseas Vietnamese from the US and an increasing push by American investors into Viet Nam.
Bilateral trade revenues are projected at US$11-12 billion this year, 50 per cent higher than last year.
Vietnam Airlines transported more than 5.1 million passengers in the first nine months of 2006, an increase of 17.5 per cent over last year. Of these, 2.3 million were foreign travellers. — VNS