Search This Blog

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Boeing Signs Memo with CAAV, Pledges to Help Start Direct Vietnam-US Flights

Vietnamese carriers are prohibited from flying directly to the US until the CAAV receives the FAA's "Category 1" designation, which is based on meeting ICAO standards around safety and oversight. VNA has a stated goal of eventually flying from SGN to LAX and will have the aircraft to fly it, but no current authority to do so.

Signing ceremony. Image source: US Department of State
The Boeing Company and the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) recently signed a Memorandum of Collaboration, with the goal of guiding Vietnam towards receiving the "Category 1" designation from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which would allow Vietnamese airlines to begin flying their aircraft into US airports.

The only Vietnamese carrier currently with international long-haul service is Vietnam Airlines (VNA), which has stated its desire to start direct flights from Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon (SGN) to Los Angeles (LAX) as soon as 2016.

VNA's main domestic competitor, Vietjet Air (VJ), has stated that it will not start long-haul services for several years.
Read more: VietJet Air wants to grow aggressively, gets money to do it, needs even more money
At a ceremony in Hanoi attended by both Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong and US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, representatives from the CAAV and Boeing pledged to work closely together to achieve the coveted CAT-1 status.

CAT-1 status is attained by a nation's civil authority when it meets standards set forth by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Such standards include an evaluation of overall safety, legislation, enforcement, and oversight.

Vietnam is not currently listed on the FAA's evaluation results because of the lack of air service to the US; this gives Vietnam a "Category 2" rating by default, preventing the launch of air service directly to the United States.

Additionally, an ICAO audit in 2007 found that Vietnam's civil aviation system had glaring deficiencies, to the point that the European Union (EU) was considering banning VNA and other Vietnamese carriers from flying in EU airspace.

While this memorandum is non-binding on the parties and the FAA, it does emphasize Boeing's active role in aiding the CAAV undertake and complete corrective measures, and highlights the aircraft manufacturer's view of Vietnam as a major growth market in commercial aviation.

While its current fleet of Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s do not have the range to make the SGN-LAX flight nonstop, VNA is poised to take delivery of two new advanced and efficient aircraft types, the Boeing 787-9 (B789) and Airbus A350-900 (A359), in the next few months to replace the current long-haul fleet.
Read more: Vietnam Airlines' Boeing 787: New Lie-Flat Seats in Business, 2 Different Economy Configurations
SGN-LAX is approximately 8,169 miles.
The shaded area is beyond the
B789's range.
Image source: Great Circle Mapper.
Both the B789s and A359s have the range to reach most of the US and all of Canada.

In recent years, diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States have warmed significantly. Vietnam has had a long-standing desire to connect the country to the largest populations of Vietnamese abroad. Efforts to convince overseas Vietnamese to come to their homeland have included the relaxing of travel visa requirements, the implementation of visa waivers, and the facilitation of travel for those wishing to conduct business and commerce in Vietnam.

Over 270,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area identify themselves as Vietnamese or of Vietnamese heritage, with half that population in Orange County alone.

Overall, there are more than 1.5 million Vietnamese living in the US. Other top Vietnamese populations centers are in Northern California Bay Area (over 181,000), Texas (Dallas and Houston metro areas, over 174,000), Washington, DC (over 57,000), and Seattle (over 55,000).

Failing to meet ICAO standards has had a long-reaching effect on Vietnamese aviation, beyond not securing the FAA's CAT-1 designation.

Transport Canada also prohibits Vietnamese carriers from flying into Canadian airports. There are over 220,000 living in Canada who claim a Vietnamese lineage.

Vietnam has invested heavily in aviation infrastructure, including the opening of a new US$645 million international terminal at Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport (HAN), new terminals at smaller airports like Vinh, and a completely new airport on Phu Quoc (PQC) Island to allow larger aircraft to land.

But recent lapses, such as a power outage at an air traffic control center that left airspace around SGN unmonitored for over an hour, give the ICAO and FAA cause for concern.

No comments:

Post a Comment