By HUY TRAN
Vietnam is all set to receive permission to fly directly to the U.S., and Vietnam Airlines plans to launch four flights a week.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has declared that Vietnam now complies with international safety standards, giving its airlines the opportunity to fly to the U.S. and codeshare with American carriers.
The FAA has awarded the country with the Category 1 (CAT 1) rating, which means air carriers from the country may initiate or continue services to the US and take part in reciprocal codeshare arrangements with US carriers.
Vietnam Airlines CEO Duong Tri Thanh told local news media that the carrier would begin with four flights a week to Los Angeles and later daily flights to the West Coast, which is home to a large Vietnamese community.
There are currently no direct flights between the two countries, in spite of a large market catering to tourism and trading. All passengers must transit in another country or territory such as Qatar, Korea or Japan, with a total travel time of 18 to 21 hours.
Vietnam’s aviation industry has seen increasing demand in recent years. According to the CAAV, Vietnam welcomed more than 100 million passengers passing through airports in the country in 2018.
The number of flights in the country grew by 16 percent on average between 2010 and 2018, according to official data.
But there are also concerns about possible losses. Thanh said it would take at least five years for the direct service to the U.S. to break even, and there could be an annual loss of $30 million in the first few years.
It would take at least five years for the national flag carrier to break even, he added.
Dinh Viet Thang, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), said that local airlines would need to purchase larger airplanes as most of the existing fleet cannot manage such long flights.