Vietnam Airlines plans to join SkyTeam next year
National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines on Wednesday confirmed its wish to become a member of the SkyTeam Alliance of airlines, expected next year, a press release said.
Under the agreement signed in Hanoi Wednesday, Vietnam Airlines would "undertake exclusive discussions to become a part of SkyTeam during the year 2010, pending fulfilment of the alliance's membership requirements," the statement said.
"Vietnam Airlines will enhance SkyTeam's network in Southeast Asia," said SkyTeam steering committee chairman, Dominique Patry, who called the communist country's airline "a strategic partner".
Vietnam Airlines expects to triple its fleet of 50 aircraft by 2020, and officials say it is seeking to become one of the region's best carriers.
"The agreement we signed today reaffirms Vietnam Airlines' position as a major carrier in Southeast Asia and marks a step forward in our efforts to become a strong global partner of SkyTeam," said Pham Ngoc Minh, the airline's chief executive officer.
The 10-member SkyTeam is a global airline alliance that includes Air France, Korean Air and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. It offers its 462 million annual passengers a worldwide system of more than 16,700 daily flights to 905 destinations in 169 countries.
At a press conference, Duong Tri Thanh, Vietnam Airlines' deputy chairman, said that because of the global economic downturn the number of foreign passengers flying with Vietnam Airlines in the first quarter of this year was 92 percent of the comparable figure for the same period last year.
The number of domestic customers was rising, but at a slower pace, Thanh said. IATA, the airline industry association, said last month that a sharp global decline in air travel accelerated in February as global passenger volumes plunged 10.1 percent below levels recorded a year earlier.
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