By Winston Shek
Vietnam Permits Resumption of Domestic Flights
As Vietnam reels from a recent surge in Covid-19 cases, the country is starting to see a steady decrease in daily case numbers, allowing for the slow removal of lockdown restrictions. As a result, per ch.aviation, Vietnam is permitting the resumption of domestic flights starting Oct. 10, easing restrictions that have been in place since late August.
After consulting with 20 provinces and cities on reopening plans, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) allowed for the resumption of 10 routes by Bamboo Airways, Pacific Airlines — a Vietnam Airlines subsidiary — VietJet and Vietnam Airlines. The majority of these routes will be from Ho Chi Minh City, while three services will be resumed from Tho Xuan Airport, 45 miles away from the provincial capital of Thanh Hoa, Vietnam.
From Ho Chi Minh City, the CAAV allocated two daily frequencies to Thanh Hoa to each of Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines and Bamboo Airways, in addition to one daily frequency to VietJet. To the provinces of Khanh Hoa, Phu Yenh and Binh Dinh, Vietnam, as well as the island of Phu Quoc, the CAAV granted four daily frequencies to Bamboo Airways, Pacific Airlines and Vietnam Airlines. Additionally, the government agency distributed a daily frequency to the Thau Thien Hue province to Vietnam Airlines and two weekly frequencies to the airline to fly to the Nghe An province.
Additionally, the CAAV allocated a daily frequency for flights from Thanh Hoa to the province of Khanh Hoa and Phu Quoc Island to VietJet, while allocating a daily frequency to the city of Buon Ma Thuot.
Vietnam Airlines operated the first passenger domestic flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Quy Nhon in the Binh Dinh province, utilizing the Airbus A321-200 for the quick one-hour 15-minute hop. The first flight departed as VN1394 from Ho Chi Minh City at 11:42 a.m., landing in Quy Nhon at 12:25 p.m.
In a statement, the VNA Group announced that it would fly additional daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Thanh Hoa and Tuy Hoa via Pacific Airlines, though fleet utilization with Vietnam Airlines and its regional subsidiary VASCO remained unknown. Meanwhile, VietJet announced it would utilize all of its allocated frequencies from Ho Chi Minh City and two weekly frequencies from Thanh Hoa to Khanh Hoa and Phu Quoc Island.
In order to fly, passengers must be vaccinated or have proof of a COVID-19 recovery within the last six months. In addition, passengers will need to take a Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure and self-isolate at home for several days, with mandatory follow-up testing.
The allocated frequencies are part of a four-phase reopening strategy that will be implemented over the following months. Phase 1 is the current phase of operation, where social distancing is enforced on planes via seat spacing and frequencies may not exceed 50% of their amount from prior to Vietnam’s Covid-19 surge in April. On Oct. 20, Phase 2 commences, where seat spacing is eliminated, and frequencies will not exceed 70% of their pre-April total. Assuming both stages are successful, Phase 3 will be implemented, allowing frequencies to resume at a level equal to April 2021.
Amid the resumption of its domestic flights, Vietnam intends to ramp up its reopening, reopening the island of Phu Quoc — known for its pristine beaches — to foreign vaccinated tourists with a negative COVID-19 test in November 2021. Furthermore, the country plans to reopen the famous UNESCO sites of Ha Long Bay and Hoi An, in addition to the highlands city of Da Lat and the beach town of Nha Trang in December to certain approved countries of travel. It is unknown which countries will be permitted to travel into the country. Vietnam is aiming for the full reopening of its borders by June 2022.
Vietnamese carriers like Bamboo Airways are prepping for new international flights. The Hanoi-based airline plans to resume regular international operations in November, with flights to Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei. In addition, the airline is eyeing the launch of flights to the U.S. as soon as December to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Other Southeast Asian destinations have begun the reopening of their borders, like Singapore. The country recently announced the expansion of its vaccinated travel lanes program, allowing people to skip quarantine in Singapore. Initially open to Germany and Brunei, the program will include countries like Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. However, the program is currently only available via specific Singapore Airlines flights. For example, for vaccinated U.S. travelers, Singapore Airlines flyers can only utilize the gateways of Los Angeles and New York City. However, the airline plans to boost its frequencies as a result of the new announcement.