Opportunities arise from direct flights to the US

Saturday, 2019-02-23 11:50:54
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The personnel of Vietnam's aviation industry have been increasingly standardised.
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NDO – On February 15, US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink presented the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Category 1 (CAT 1) aviation safety certification to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), marking important progress in Vietnam’s aviation industry after 10 years of efforts.

>>> Vietnam qualified to establish flight services to US

According to the CAAV, all countries in the world are subject to the safety supervision of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Particularly, the US stipulates that a nation which wants to operate flights to the US must meet the CAT 1 standard, based on the eight key safety standards of the ICAO. By acquiring the CAT 1 certificate, Vietnam’s aviation industry has affirmed its position and prestige in the field of international aviation. From now on, in addition to direct flights that have been successfully connected to many countries such as Canada, India, Russia, France and Germany, among others, Vietnam is going to have direct flights to the US, a high potential market. Previously, to travel to the US by air, passengers had to transit via at least one stop such as China, Japan, the Republic of Korea or Singapore, causing prolonged flights and flight-related procedures to arise.

The acquisition of the CAT 1 certificate is vivid proof of the functional Vietnamese agencies’ determination, while showing that the Party and State’s policies in integration and connecting Vietnam with other countries in the region and the world in all fields, including aviation, has become a reality over the course of the past few years. The goal of meeting the CAT 1 safety standard had been set since 2012. After years of concerted efforts, which also saw failures, Vietnam has identified the shortcomings and weaknesses to make positive changes and continue to improve. At the end of November 2018, the FAA conducted an official inspection over the CAAV, and gave good assessments to the areas of the system of legal normative documents, standards, management tools and civil aviation organisation. It is reported that domestic airlines such as Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and Bamboo Airways are actively promoting procedures to establish direct routes to the US and organise codeshare flights with carriers in the US.

However, getting the CAT 1 certificate is just an initial success, because Vietnam will still have to undergo FAA inspections annually. As assessed by the CAAV, it is difficult to acquire CAT 1, but it is even harder to preserve it. According to the process, after one year, the FAA will reevaluate the whole process of compliance, including sudden inspections. Previously, many countries have been downgraded despite having already achieved the CAT 1 certificate, such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. In order to maintain the aforementioned certification, the Government will need to invest in training flight supervision personnel, which requires huge costs. Currently, the CAAV has nearly 30 flight supervisors, meeting just 30% of the demand, and has to hire pilots from airlines to meet the remaining 70%. The agency has set the goal of establishing a full flight surveillance force by 2025.

The US aviation market has high potential but is also fastidious, and the opening of a direct air route to the US is what Vietnam has to do sooner or later. If well-prepared, Vietnamese airlines will achieve success in this market. The current challenge for domestic carriers is the massive costs for the building of a long-range aircraft fleet, in addition to fierce competition as air routes to the US are being exploited by many carriers. With long-range flights, the factor of profit efficiency depends greatly on the exploitation of high-class seats, while the economy class is only enough to offset the cost. Therefore, Vietnamese carriers should focus on the segmentation of this market. Starting immediately, the aviation industry and management agencies must make constant efforts to research and complete appropriate policy mechanisms and improve the quality of services to take advantage of this opportunity. Only with the best preparations could the exploitation of direct routes to the US be successful. The launch of additional direct air routes to such a potential market as the US also means that more opportunities for cooperation and investment will open with many promises.