National carrier Vietnam Airlines has been awarded a foreign air carrier permit by the U.S. Department of Transportation, authorizing it to operate flights between the Southeast Asian country and U.S. destinations.
The flag airline is licensed to operate passenger, cargo and airmail flights between Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi and the U.S. cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Dallas-Fort Worth.
The transit flights will include stops in Taipei, Osaka and Nagoya.
The permit also allows Vietnam Airlines to operate flights to the Canadian cities of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto via points in the U.S.
Vietnam Airlines announced in August it had signed a codeshare agreement with Delta Air Lines - America’s second-largest carrier - to operate Vietnam-U.S. flights via Tokyo, with ticket sales expected to begin in October.
Under the agreement, Vietnam Airlines will provide Vietnam-Tokyo flights while Delta will operate services between the Japanese capital and U.S. cities.
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, enabling Vietnamese airlines to operate flights to the U.S. and codeshare with American carriers.
The national carrier is the first Vietnamese airline to seek authorization to operate flights to the U.S.
Despite the high demand for travel between Vietnam and the U.S., there are no direct flights connecting the two countries.
Those who want to fly from Vietnam to the U.S. and vice versa must transit at airports in Asian cities like Hong Kong, Seoul, or Tokyo.
Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and Bamboo Airways have evinced interest in launching non-stop Vietnam-U.S. flights.
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.