Vietnam Opens More Doors through Secondary Gateways

 - January 14, 2014, 9:32 AM
Vietnam Airlines recently launched ATR 72 service between Vinh, Vietnam, and Vientiane, Laos, as part of a wider effort to expand domestic and international services within and to its home country. (Photo: ATR)

The Vietnamese air transport market appears poised for rapid growth this year as it continues to channel new domestic and international routes through its secondary airports, Vinh and Nha Trang. Vietnam Airlines launched service from Vinh to Vientiane, Laos, on January 12, making Vinh the fifth Vietnamese airport operating international services. Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Da Nang and Nha Trang Cam Ranh currently offer international routes.

Plans call for Vietnam Airlines to initially operate four weekly ATR 72 turboprop flights, increasing the carrier’s international routes to 93 while expanding its presence in the Mekong region. Vinh lies in the north-central part of Vietnam and currently serves five domestic destinations, including two new domestic routes launched last year by low-cost carriers Jetstar Pacific and Vietjet.

Vietnam’s fourth largest airport, Nha Trang, launched international service to Moscow last April and now serves three domestic routes: Da Nang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. The carrier recently added a second 777 weekly flight in December to Moscow Domodedovo. Vietnam Airlines plans to extend international services from Nha Trang to Europe, initially on a seasonal charter basis. The airline currently serves London from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. It is also considering an international route to London from Nha Trang.

Nha Trang’s reputation as a resort destination in south-central Vietnam has attracted an increase in passenger traffic from Eastern Europe. Eastern European charter carriers have transported passengers from Kiev, Nizhny, Novosibirsk, Saint Petersburg and Tomsk in recent months. Both Vinh and Nha Trang are undergoing upgrades to meet an increase in capacity.

A sixth Vietnamese airport, Phu Quo, holds the potential to launch international services in the short- or medium term. Phu Quo is a resort island located off of the southwest coast of Vietnam. Tourists entering Phu Quo do not require a visa, increasing the town’s popularity.

Overall, Vietnam is currently looking to expand international services and point-to-point domestic routes to increase connectivity. Traveling in Vietnam used to mean lengthy bus trips or rerouting through its three largest airports: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Da Nang. A growing economy and a rising middle class have led to an increase in demand for air travel in the region, particularly to secondary cities. Considered a frontier market, Vietnam looks readily positioned to offer low fares and new routes to stimulate continued growth.