Vietnam’s airlines could resume international flights in Asia as early as next month, opening up travel routes to China, Korea, Japan, Taipei, Laos, and Cambodia.
Up to 3,000 passengers could be expected to arrive weekly if the latest proposal by the Ministry of Transport is approved. However, all inbound passengers and crew would be subject to a 14-day self-quarantine.
According to the proposed plans, one flight per week will be allowed from each of the areas. Regions which have not detected community infections for 30 consecutive days would be deemed safe for travel, according to an earlier government statement.
However, no new entrants to the airline industry will be approved until 2022, meaning that the flights would likely fall upon its five licensed commercial airlines: state-owned Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, Bamboo Airways, Jetstar Pacific and Vietnam Air Services Company (VASCO).
With a ban still in place on foreign visitors since 22 March, domestic tourism and so-called ‘travel bubbles’ have gained traction among local travellers.
Vietnam’s aviation sector has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with Vietnam Airlines requesting an urgent VND 12 trillion (USD 518 million) bailout from the government this month. According to the General Statistics Office, Vietnam had 3.04 million visitors via air travel in the first six months of 2020 – a 54.33% decrease compared to the same period last year.
Having gone three months with no locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, Vietnam is keen to reopen its borders to boost its hard-hit tourism industry, which normally constitutes 6% of its national GDP. The pandemic has slowed economic growth considerably, with the IMF predicting a drop from 7% GDP growth to just 2.7% in 2020.
The IMF reports, “Prospects for a recovery look bright as lockdown measures have been lifted, businesses resume operations, and consumers flock to restaurants and shops… But sustained and robust growth will also require an economic recovery among Vietnam’s trading partners.”