In an attempt to ease overloading at the country’ largest airport in Ho Chi Minh City, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) has asked Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Jestar Pacific to move their idle aircraft to Can Tho Airport in the Mekong Delta and leave them there overnight. Planes serving international routes can still stay in the city.
But at least two of the airlines have protested the plan, saying it is not financially viable to fly empty aircraft to and from Can Tho every day. There is no commercial route connecting the two cities at the moment due to their proximity.
|A worker pumps fuel into an aircraft at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by Reuters/Kham
A source from low-cost carrier Jetstar Pacific said there is no airline in the world that has to operate round trips with no passenger only to park their fleet.
One trip between the two airports, which are around 180 kilometers apart, costs around VND200-VND300 million (US$8,800-US$13,200), not to mention the trouble of hosting the crew and technicians in Can Tho overnight, the representative said.
The Jetstar spokesperson also said CAAV’s requirement means carriers should launch new late-night services to Can Tho but Jetstar has no such plans. “New flights or route changes should be driven by real travel demand.”
Another airline executive, who does not want to be identified, also criticized the Can Tho solution as costly and troubling.
The plan can even backfire when a lot of aircraft return to Tan Son Nhat in the morning all trying to fly to other cities and provinces, the person said.
Some experts have warned that passengers will eventually have to bear the higher costs. They say the better solution is to expand the Tan Son Nhat airport immediately.
Tan Son Nhat’s apron is designed to accommodate 57 aircraft at a time, but sometimes there are more than 70 parking there over night.
Vietnam’s airline market is growing at the third fastest pace in Asia-Pacific and the country is grappling with an acute dearth of airport capacity. Aviation authorities estimated that the number of passengers on domestic flights would soar 35% to 28 million this year, accounting for more than half of the total air travel in the country.
Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air and the newly founded Vietstar are planning to expand their fleets to a total of 263 aircraft in the next four years. Vietstar has not even been licensed to fly yet.
The country is working on a design for a massive airport in Dong Nai Province to share some of the heavy load for Tan Son Nhat, but construction can take years.