Carriers fear more delays, higher fares as Vietnam’s biggest airports upgraded

Airlines already incur extra costs as airports become increasingly overloaded

A tired passenger sleeps at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on August 7, 2015.

The ongoing and planned upgrades and expansion projects at two of Vietnam’s largest airports may facilitate better airline services upon completion, but the carriers have complained that the works are hamstringing their current operations.

Airlines are afraid that the upgrade, repair and expansion works at both Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City will result in further flight delays and cancelations, leading to increased airfares because of a reduced service frequency.

The Noi Bai aerodrome is expected to enter an eight-month repair and upgrade process that will not end until March 2018, aimed at increasing the capacity of its Terminal T1 to 15 million passengers per year from the current nine million.

Construction works will be carried out across the terminal, likely to adversely affect flight activity.

The expansion project at Tan Son Nhat has already entered its second phase, with one of its two runways set for temporary shutdown.

This means that all flights will have to take off and land on one operational runway.

According to a representative from Jetstar Pacific, the runway will be closed between 1:00 am and 8:00 am during the upgrade process, meaning all airlines will have to reschedule services with early morning departure times.

The Airports Corporation of Vietnam is also slated to implement four projects, including the development of a 21-hectare airport apron at Tan Son Nhat.

Work for the new apron is expected to begin in September this year and completed by June 2018.

Cost overruns

The construction at both Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat will exacerbate overloading at both terminals, which could indirectly increase airfares, according to Nguyen Thien Tong, a local aviation expert.

“With only one runway available, airlines may have to circle above the airport for longer before being allocated their landing slot, which would result in rising operational costs,” Tong said.

“The carriers may have to increase ticket prices to make up for those unexpected cost overruns.”

In reality, Vietnamese airlines have already suffered cost overruns as the country’s major airports have become increasingly busy.

National carrier Vietnam Airlines said it had already spent an additional 1,392 hours more than planned circling above the overloaded Tan Son Nhat airport last year, resulting in extra operational costs of VND188 billion (US$8.28 million).

Vietjet said they did not have statistics for their cost overruns, but lamented that the situation had led to further flight delays.

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