Vietnam’s airports see traffic quadruple in last 10 years; few European airlines present

Image: Route Launch
Vietnam Airlines this week expanded its network by launching services from Hanoi to Osaka Kansai. The national carrier is the only Vietnamese airline to fly internationally and it still enjoys a share of almost 80% of seat capacity on domestic services.

Map: Vietnam mapAccording to OAG schedule data for January, Vietnam currently has 20 airports with scheduled services. However, over 80% of flights and over 85% of seat capacity are concentrated at just three airports; Tan Son Nhat airport serving Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai airport serving Hanoi and Da Nang airport. These are also the only three airports in Vietnam offering international services. The remaining 17 airports offer only domestic flights (mostly to Hanoi and/or Ho Chi Minh City) and at 14 of them Vietnam Airlines is the only carrier. The only other carrier providing domestic services is Jetstar Pacific, which used to be known as Pacific Airlines. Another local carrier, Indochina Airlines, ceased operating last November.

Air traffic has grown rapidly during the last 10 years. Between 1998 and 2008, passenger numbers at the country’s two busiest airports grew from under five million to just under 20 million, helped by the growth of Vietnam Airlines.

Chart: Vietnam traffic 98 - 08
Source: ICAO

New services started in the last two years at these main airports are summarised below. Most of the routes started have been by carriers other than Vietnam Airlines. It is worth noting, however, that this week sees the launch of a third Japanese destination (Osaka Kansai) in the last 18 months, from Hanoi by the national carrier.

Launch To/from Ho Chi Minh City Launch To/From Hanoi
25 Jan 08 Vinh City (Pacific Airlines) 10 Apr 08 Manila (Cebu Pacific)
04 Apr 08 Bangkok (Thai AirAsia) 01 Jun 08 Da Nang (Jetstar Pacific)
11 Apr 08 Manila (Cebu Pacific) 12 Aug 08 Nagoya (Vietnam Airlines)
15 Apr 08 Kuala Lumpur (AirAsia) 01 Sep 08 Dong Hoi (Vietnam Airlines)
26 Oct 08 Siem Reap
(Siem Reap Airways)
26 Oct 08 Hong Kong
25 Nov 08 Hanoi
(Indochina Airlines)
25 Nov 08 Ho Chi Minh City
(Indochina Airlines)
25 Nov 08 Da Nang
(Indochina Airlines)
27 Mar 09 Shanghai
(Shanghai Airlines)
05 Dec 08 Hue (Jetstar Pacific) 11 Jun 09 Shenzhen
(Shenzhen Airlines)
01 Jun 09 Tokyo Narita (Northwest) 10 Oct 09 Fukuoka (Vietnam Airlines)
28 Jul 09 Phnom Penh
(Cambodia Angkor Air)
24 Oct 09 Tuy Hoa (Vietnam Airlines)
28 Jul 09 Siem Reap
(Cambodia Angkor Air)
25 Oct 09 Haikou (Hainan Airlines)
18 Sep 09 Jakarta (Indonesia AirAsia) 27 Oct 09 Pleiku (Vietnam Airlines)
13 Jan 10 Osaka Kansai
(Vietnam Airlines)
13 Feb 10 Macau (Viva Macau)
Source: new routes database
Image: Vietnam airport runway
The Master Plan: Long Thanh International Airport has been approved as Ho Chi Minh City’s new airport, as the current Tan Son Nhat International Airport is limited by space constraints. The ambitious plans include four parallel runways and a capacity of 100 million annual passengers.

A new airport, known as Long Thanh International airport, has been approved to serve Ho Chi Minh City, as the current airport is constrained by its surroundings. The master plan for the airport ultimately envisages four parallel runways and terminals able to handle 100 million passengers annually.

Vietnam Airlines planning for growth and SkyTeam alliance

State-owned Vietnam Airlines is a major force on both domestic and international routes. The future SkyTeam member is, along with Aeroflot that flies Moscow-Hanoi, the only airline to currently operate non-stop services between Europe and Vietnam.

State-owned Vietnam Airlines dominates the domestic market, but is also a major player on international routes. From Ho Chi Minh City airport, it serves 19 international destinations including Frankfurt, Paris and Moscow in Europe, Melbourne and Sydney, plus three destinations in Japan. However, its highest frequency routes are to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in neighbouring Cambodia. From Hanoi, it serves many of the same destinations but not Australia.

Vietnam Airlines’ current fleet comprises 10 777s, seven A330s, 27 A320/A321s and 12 ATR 72s. It has also placed orders for both Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s, plus four A380s. The airline is on course to become a full member of the SkyTeam alliance some time during 2010.

Jetstar Pacific only competes on domestic routes

Image: Jetstar
Troubled Jetstar Pacific operates six domestic routes, providing the only competition to Vietnam Airways on the domestic front with over 20% of scheduled capacity this winter.

Jetstar Pacific (formerly operating as Pacific Airlines) is 27% owned by Qantas and operates five 737-400s and a single A320. It operates just six domestic routes with over 50% of capacity allocated to the key Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City route, which it operates 11 times daily. International services are provided by Jetstar Airways to Darwin and by Jetstar Asia to Singapore.

Last week, a former CEO of the airline was arrested in Vietnam, accused of costing the airline millions of dollars in bad fuel hedges. This week, Vietnamese authorities said that investigations had revealed safety lapses at the airline and that the airline had 30 days to correct the problems cited in the report or risks losing its operating licence. Despite its link to Qantas, Jetstar Pacific remains majority (70%) owned by the State Capital Investment Corporation of Vietnam.

Cambodia leading country market

The leading country markets from Vietnam are all south-east Asian countries, led by Cambodia, followed by Thailand and Singapore. On routes to Singapore and Thailand, carriers such as Tiger Airways, AirAsia, Thai AirAsia and Jetstar Asia compete with the traditional national carriers. In January 2006, Tiger Airways added services to Da Nang from Singapore, but the route only lasted six months and only Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi remain served with international LCC routes.

Chart: Top 10 country markets
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 January 2010

European markets are served non-stop by Vietnam Airlines, but also by Air France and Lufthansa (both via Bangkok) and Aeroflot (non-stop from Hanoi to Moscow Sheremetyevo). Two US carriers also fly to Vietnam. United operates via Hong Kong to San Francisco, while Northwest/Delta serves the US market via its hub at Tokyo Narita. Of the ‘MEB3′ airlines, only Qatar Airways operates to Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) with four weekly flights from Doha.


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