Vietnam Airlines may open direct flights to US next year

Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) and national carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) are completing the necessary procedures to open a direct air route to the United States in 2018.

Vietnam Airlines is the only carrier in the country that can operate direct flights to the US

Looking for the necessary conditions

At the end of the second quarter of 2017, the delegation of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the US Department of Transportation will start working with CAAV.

The delegation will support CAAV in reviewing the overall safety supervision capabilities of the Vietnamese state management agency in accordance with the regulations of the Aviation Safety Inspectorate of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

“We are ready for this technical evaluation. The review results will be an important foundation for the international aviation safety assessment (IASA) of FAA before granting Category 1 rating (CAT 1) in line with IASA standards to CAAV,” said Lai Xuan Thanh, head of CAAV.

By reaching CAT 1 with the aviation safety supervision system, VNA will be entitled to start direct flights to the US.

Previously, with an aim to support this IASA—a prerequisite for VNA to open direct flights to the US—CAAV set up a project to strengthen the aviation safety supervision capacity with the financial aid of $0.56 million from the US Trade and Development Agency.

The project, which was completed in March 2016, aims to focus on perfecting CAAV’s vocational training on supervision and updating related regulations and legal documents as well as supporting the professional training of inspectors of Vietnamese regulatory agencies in accordance with FAA-standard safety supervision requirements, targeting to secure FAA’s CAT1 approval.

In preparation for the FAA review, Thanh said that the agency has made elaborate preparations over the years to improve its aviation safety monitoring capabilities.

“The first and most important task was completing the regulations and legal documents related to safety supervision requirements. Next came establishing an aviation safety supervisory team that ensures both quantity and quality, as required by FAA,” said Thanh.

FAA also required CAAV to have at least two full-time supervisors (who are also pilots).

“These supervisors have to fully comply with the procedures and supervision rules of the operation of aircrafts, ensuring all safety protocols,” Thanh added.

Vietnam Airlines preparation well underway

Being the only airline in Vietnam with a fleet capable of flying directly to the US, VNA submitted a document to the US Department of Transportation requesting permission to operate direct flights in November 2016.

In the five-year plan for the period 2016-2020, VNA has taken into account the opening of direct flights to the West Coast of the US, considering Los Angeles or San Francisco as potential destinations.

The new generation A350 XWB and Boeing 787-9 planes will have one technical stop in Tokyo or Osaka. The aircrafts will be refueled there and take on food for passengers for about one hour, during which passengers will not need to leave the plane.

However, reaching CAT 1 rating is a prerequisite for the US to consider approving the direct flights.

“Based on FAA’s CAT1 assessment, VNA will compile a plan to tap into the US market. We expect this to start by the end of 2018, ” said Trinh Ngoc Thanh, executive vice president of VNA.

The US is the largest aviation market in the world, prompting strong competition among various carriers to open flights here. According to statistics, there are about 24 airlines operating flights from Vietnam to the US through Noi Bai, Danang, and Tan Son Nhat airports.

By Anh Minh

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