National carrier Vietnam Airlines has signed a codeshare agreement with Delta Air Lines - America’s second-largest carrier - to operate Vietnam-U.S. flights via Tokyo.
Vietnam Airlines will provide Vietnam-Tokyo flights while Delta will operate services between the Japanese capital and U.S. cities, according to the agreement.
The two airlines will conduct operational checks in September with Delta expected to begin selling tickets for flights between Hanoi and Tokyo, operated by Vietnam Airlines, from October this year.
This is an upgrade for Vietnam Airlines from a previous one-way agreement it signed with Delta in 2010.
Under that partnership, Delta Air Lines would operate flights between Vietnam and U.S. cities, with stops in either Tokyo, Japan or Frankfurt, Germany, while Vietnam Airlines only marketed and sold tickets for such flights.
In February, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration awarded Vietnam a “Category 1” (CAT-1) rating, a recognition that the country complies with international safety standards, making Vietnamese airlines eligible for operating direct flights to the U.S.
This rating upgrade also enables Vietnamese carriers to codeshare with American carriers.
Vietnam Airlines said in a statement on Wednesday the new codeshare agreement with Delta is the airline’s first step to explore air travel demands between Vietnam and the U.S. while having customers form the habit of flying to the U.S. on Vietnam Airlines-operated flights.
The national carrier has expressed a desire to operate direct flights to the U.S. soon.
|Delta Airlines jets sit at terminal at Reagan National Airport outside Washington in this August 19, 2004 file photo. Photo: Reuters|
There are currently no nonstop flights between Vietnam and the U.S., despite a large market catering to tourism and visits by friends and relatives.
Other Vietnamese airlines including Vietjet Air and Bamboo Airways have also evinced interest in launching direct Vietnam-U.S. flights.
Both Vietnam Airlines and Delta Air Lines are members of the SkyTeam airline alliance.
The number of passengers flying between Vietnam and the U.S. grew eight percent annually on average between 2010 and 2017, according to statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam.
Last year, about 107,000 Vietnamese people traveled to the U.S while more than 687,000 U.S. visitors came to Vietnam, according to the same source.