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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        2  February 2011

Private air carriers do not take off in Vietnam

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Although Vietnam has been heading for an Open Sky for airlines in the region, domestic private carriers are still struggling to get off the ground.

Five private airlines have been licensed since the first license was granted by the Vietnamese Government to a private airline in the country nearly four years ago.

But only Air Mekong is operating its flights on domestic routes.

The other four licensed airlines - Indochina Airlines, VietJet Air, Trai Thien Air Cargo and Blue Sky Air - are still grounded.

VietJet Air, the first private airline licensed in the country, was expected to start flying in August last year but it has delayed the plan.

The carrier, which sold a 30 percent stake to Malaysia's low-cost carrier AirAsia in February last year, planned to launch its maiden flight in August last year under the name VietJet AirAsia.

However, the carrier has not announced any plans to reschedule its maiden flight after being warned by the Civil Aviation Authority of Viet Nam (CAAV) to not use trademarks that could be confused with AirAsia.

Trai Thien Air Cargo, Vietnam's first private cargo carrier licensed in October 2009, planned to commence its first flight between Ha Noi and HCM City in June 2010, targeting garments, electronics and foodstuffs companies as potential customers.

The HCM City-based carrier, which planned to develop a fleet of 10 freighters to transport export and import goods of local companies, is still grounded.

Company's deputy director Le Giang Long admitted that the airline had met some financial difficulties, leading to tardiness in paying salaries to its staff.

Vo Huy Cuong, head of the CAAV's Air Transport Departmen, said VietJet Air was still grounded because it had not obtained an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) while Trai Thien lacked sufficient staff.

Meanwhile, Blue Sky Air, another new carrier, said it would also have its own niche market, using helicopters for its on-demand services.

Blue Sky Air has demonstrated its advantages with the in-flight tourism services, which serve business-class passengers.

With about 20 tourist destinations registered and the ability to take off and land in various topographic and tourist destinations, Blue Sky Air expects to satisfy the diversified needs of the society.

However, the new carrier has yet to begin operating.

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