Keeping up with global trends
The term charter flight refers to an airline route arranged by a travel company that rents all the seats of an airplane. In comparison with other forms of travel, the most fundamental difference of tour packages using air charter is that instead of purchasing normal air tickets, tourists will travel by private airplane on return flights arranged by travel firms to a particular place, bringing about several benefits and advantages for customers.
Tours using air charter can depart according to the schedule set by the tour operator, with flexible flight times particularly suitable for large groups of tourists. In addition, the travel company renting the plane may request the carrier provides flexible flight services to any airport that company is entitled to use.
Although the name conjures up images of luxury travel, in fact tours using air charter services typically cost 20-30% less than conventional ones. By booking the entire route, Vietnamese travel firms are able to offer the tours at competitive prices that include the air tickets and in-flight meals.
Taking up the trend, many major travel companies with strong financial muscle are beginning to join the race to offer tours via air charter to attractive destinations at home and abroad to lure customers. Vietnamese airlines are keen to enter the business through the lease of aircrafts and offering attractive incentives for tour operators. Tours using air charter are flourishing, and low-cost carriers such as Vietjet Air are taking advantage of this new opportunity.
The revenue of Vietjet from leasing air charter has sharply surged from VND412 billion in 2014 to VND2.632 trillion in 2016. On average, one in every four flights is air charter.
However, according to Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh, vice president of Vietjet Air, tours using charter flights are mainly operating in the tourist season or peak season such as Tet (lunar new year) holiday for tourists coming from countries such as Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Major players in the Vietnamese aviation market Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar are out of the game. At the start of 2016, Vietnam Airlines leased three Airbus A350 aircrafts that were handed over in the 2016-2017 period. According to information from Jetstar, the rental of charter flights is quite modest on domestic routes, but high on international routes. Airlines set to go into operation by the end of 2018 such as Bamboo Airways have confirmed that they will develop charter flights focusing on domestic and Northeast Asian destinations.
Boom of air charter tours
Returning from a five-day trip to Japan, Hanoi resident Nguyen Van Luu said that he had decided to book a tour via air charter to Japan through recommendations, stating lower cost and the benefit of a private airplane as the main draws. Although he wasn’t aware of tours using air charter before, after experiencing this type of travel he felt completely satisfied with the cost of just VND26 million per person, compared to the usual rate of VND30 million per person.
Like Luu, many tourists who have experienced tours via air charter report that they will choose this type of flight again for their upcoming trips. During peak tourist season when air tickets to attractive destinations are very high, the tours via air charter bring several advantages including time and cost savings.
Serving the transportation demand of customers, some major travel companies such as Vietravel, Saigontourist, Ben Thanh Tourist, Vietnam Travel and TransViet have begun cooperating with carriers and localities to organize charter flights. Many localities, including Can Tho, Quang Binh and Nghe An are willing to support and sometimes even compensate losses for carriers and tour operators to offer charter flights aiming to attract more tourists.
According to Nguyen Quoc Ky, chief executive officer of Vietravel, Vietravel officially started conducting charter flights in 2017 and has become one of the most popular travel companies to regularly organize tours using charter flights. With 70 charter flights sold in 2017 and at the beginning of 2018, Vietravel took nearly 11,000 visitors to Phuket, Chiang Mai (Thailand, Sanya (China), Jeju (the Republic of Korea) and Fukushima (Japan).
In joining forces with Vietjet Air to conduct air charter to Fukushima, the company set an unprecedented record with 19 flights departing between February and April this year carrying nearly 3,700 visitors, marking a significant milestone in the history of charter flights for the Japanese market.
Tran Thi Bao Thu, director of Fiditour marketing and communication, said the firm has organized tours using charter flights to the southern island Con Dao, offering customers reasonable prices and quality assurance and boosting its competitive edge.
The introduction of charter flights also brings a large number of visitors to the locality, especially major domestic tourist cities.
Danang Airport is now connected with 20 destinations in the world, including 14 charter flights to major cities in China. Nha Trang also attracts a high number of foreign visitors thanks to charter flights, most of whom are from Russia and China. In addition, routes from Can Tho, Da Lat, or Hue-Danang-Hoi An are seen to have the potential to operate this type of flight, with the launch of flight routes such as Can Tho-Bangkok and Can Tho-Da Lat, Danang-Bangkok and Hue-Bangkok together with some routes to China and Russia which are proving successful.
According to travel experts, 2018 will see a surge in the uptake of charter flights. The flourishing development of MICE tourism is expected to contribute to the promotion of charter flight development. Along with this trend, Vietnamese people will have many more opportunities to discover and experience their native land at competitive prices.