No guidance yet for international flight reopening slated for January
Airlines are ready to resume routine international flights from January 1, 2022 after two years of interruption. However, they are concerned as regulations have not been released. Meanwhile, some problems still exist.
Under the MOT’s plan on resuming international regular passenger air routes, air carriers are allowed to fly to Beijing, Quang Zhou (China), Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (South Korea), Taipei (Taiwan), Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Vientiane (Laos), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), and San Francisco/Los Angeles (the US) from January 1, 2022.
In the next period of the plan, airlines will be allowed to fly on 15 more routes.
A manager of an airline said the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has not allocated the number of flights for each international route, which places difficulties for airlines preparing for flights. It takes at least one month to prepare the workforce, announce flight schedules, calculate airfares and run media campaigns.
Nguyen Thien Tong, an aviation expert, said Vietnam needs to learn a lesson from the tardiness in October about announcing and allocating flights.
At that time, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) only allocated flights on days just before departure, which made it impossible for airlines and passengers to draw up their plans. This was why many flights were canceled, and the occupancy rate was just 30-50 percent.
Tong stressed that it takes more time to reopen routine international air routes than domestic ones. This is about airlines and the aviation sector, as well as as ministries, branches and local governments.
The reopening of international flights are done with the principle of reciprocity, which means that Vietnam’s number of flights to other countries needs to be commensurate with the number of flights to Vietnam.
Vietnam is continuing negotiations with other countries, but not all countries want to resume flights to Vietnam at this time.
There are also problems in flight procedures and the supervision process for pandemic prevention and control measures that need to be solved immediately to avoid repeating the mistakes during the first days of domestic route resumption.
Experts said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) need to negotiate with nine countries to obtain consensus about the vaccines accepted. Also, it’s necessary to come to an agreement about the form of vaccination certificates.
MOH needs a common form for vaccination certificates for domestic travelers as well. Many people have been fully vaccinated and have been given certificates, but their vaccination status has not been updated on the PC Covid app.
The app needs to be updated with information, including professional aviation information. Also, it needs to be ‘internationalized’ with a version in English, and with a website version.
Vietnam’s air carriers all use modern check-in systems, which allow passengers to make declarations and connections with PC Covid app.
If problems continue, not only passengers, airports and airlines will suffer but Vietnam’s prestige will be affected. The agency that runs PC Covid has to take responsibility for errors, including pending issues or slow updating.
It’s also necessary to decide which app foreign travelers have to install on their smartphones after entering Vietnam.
In a recent document, MOH asked visitors to install PC Covid. However, it’s unclear if the system will freeze if thousands of people install the app at the same time.
As for incoming international flights, diplomatic agencies need to give instructions to foreign travelers and overseas Vietnamese about medical declarations online, and negative PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) testing results and vaccination certificates.
There should also be a common form for certifying passengers who took a negative test 72 hours before departure time, and this also needs to be online.
Tong warned that if ministries and branches are slow in designing procedures related to entry/exit and anti-pandemic measures, airlines and passengers will suffer.
Vietnam’s international airports could see congestion, which would pose higher risks of getting infections among passengers. This is because, in addition to the international flights to be provided from January 1, 2022, there will be many domestic flights in the year-end and Tet season.
Airlines, travel firms and businesses have urged the Government to reopen the door. The Vietnam Aviation Business Association (VABA) warned that if Vietnam doesn’t apply necessary policies, it will lose markets and competitiveness.
The reopening of international air routes, slated for January 1, will give more opportunities for passengers to fly to Vietnam.
Regular international flights from/to Vietnam will be resumed in two phases, with air travel with nine foreign destinations to be available again in the first phase and fifteen in the second phase.