Vietnam needs to expand airport network to relieve pressure on infrastructure
Local traffic experts have expressed concerns about the need to raise airport capacity due to pressure on the current infrastructure, which mainly puts on the two biggest airports: Noi Bai in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City.
Over the past ten years, the Vietnamese aviation industry has experienced strong growth, ranking among the group of countries with the fastest growing aviation industry in the world, resulting in overloaded airports, especially the two aforementioned airports.
Therefore, the construction of new airports and the expansion of some of the existing ones are considered the most effective solution, Dr. Nguyen Huu Duc, a traffic expert, has said.
He argued that in 2020, runways at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat airports were upgraded to improve capacity and reduce congestion at these two airports. However, the renovation of Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat airports is only a short-term solution while a comprehensive plan is needed.
During the past summer, airline operations, just re-established after a long period of inactivity due to Covid-19, overwhelmed the two airports, even after runway renovations.
Strong growth but too few airports
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Vietnam ranks No.1 on the list of the 25 countries with the fastest recovery of the domestic aviation market after the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the country's aviation sector had grown at a double-digit rate, averaging 15.8% annually.
In Vietnam, airlines and airports contribute significantly to the economic growth of localities in particular and the country in general. In 2019 (before the Covid-19 pandemic), the aviation industry, including spending by passengers, contributed US$12.5 billion to the country's GDP.
The IATA forecasts that by 2035, Vietnamese airlines will serve up to 136 million passengers and contribute US$23 billion to GDP.
The country currently has 22 airports in operation. According to the master plan, with a vision for 2050, Vietnam will have 31 airports, including 14 international and 17 domestic, with one of the lowest airport densities in the world.
In Southeast Asia, the number of 22 airports that Vietnam has is quite low, compared to Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia with 38 airports, 66 airports, 70 airports, and 683 airports, respectively.
Careful research is essential
According to Dr. Nguyen Huu Duc, the airport is not only an important transshipment point for people and goods but also facilitates trade, import and export activities, tourism and investment attractions, which give impetus to the country's economy.
"For a country whose three-quarters of the topography is mountainous like Vietnam, aviation is considered the most reasonable transport solution when investment in road or rail transport infrastructure will be more expensive than countries with flat terrain," Duc told The Hanoi Times.
"However, investment in airport construction requires thorough research and targeted evaluation. At present, most of Vietnam's small airports operate at a loss due to the low number of flights. Therefore, the choice of location to build an airport and how to build it should be carefully investigated by a team of leading experts," he stressed.
Echoing Duc, Nguyen Thien Tong, an aviation expert, affirmed that it is necessary to build a plan for the airport network across Vietnam in a reasonable way.
The expert also warned of the risk of land corruption in airport construction projects if there is no close investigation, inspection and supervision by State management bodies and relevant agencies.