As Vietnamese air carriers will be able to transport goods and passengers directly between Vietnam and the U.S. this year, the airlines are now half-excited, half-worried as a mix of new opportunities and challenges presents itself on the horizon.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has been qualified for CAT1, granted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a prerequisite for Vietnamese airlines to open direct flights to the U.S.
The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam is expected to give the certificate to the CAAV on the afternoon of February 15.
While this comes as good news for Vietnamese airlines as the long-awaited direct service between Vietnam and the U.S. will become a reality, local carriers acknowledge that a lot of challenges must be overcome before the benefits of the deal are realized.
Vietnam Airlines, which has already completed necessary procedures to open direct air routes to the U.S., is still considering appropriate launch dates, aware that any new routes would be a hit to the company's bottom line.
It will take five years after the opening of the direct route for the airline to reach the break-even point, with annual losses during this period estimated at US$30 million, according to Vietnam Airlines general director Duong Tri Thanh.
The leading Vietnamese aviation company will also face tough competition from prominent international airlines, which have already established a reputation in the U.S. market, such as Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, ANA, and Eva.
Meanwhile, low-cost carrier Vietjet and Bamboo Airways, which became the fifth domestic airline in Vietnam last month, currently own no aircraft large enough for such long-range flights.
As a temporary solution, Vietjet plans to reduce the number of passengers boarding its U.S.-bound flights aboard Boeing 787s and Airbus 350s, while Bamboo Airways says that it will add wide-body aircraft to its fleet this year.
Likewise, Vietnam Airlines, despite owning Airbus A350-900 XWBs and Boeing 787 Dreamliners, both capable of making the trip, is also considering purchasing the Airbus A350-900 ULR, which has an extended range of up to 9,700 nautical miles, flying up to 20 non-stop hours with 325 passengers.
Vietnamese airlines will be forced to pay much closer attention to the complicated American judicial system in order to avoid unwarranted claims and losses.