A Quick Look at the Future of Aviation, In and Out of Vietnam

Transportation - Vietnam: Aug. 17, 2018

Vietnam’s economy is growing fast. Prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed optimistically that GDP growth in 2018 may even hit 6.7 percent, a consistent increase over 2016 and 2017. With heightened foreign investment comes an Achilles heel that needs to be mended as quickly as possible: demands in aviation have risen starkly and the government is scrambling to improve pre-existing infrastructure and create new solutions.

In the vibrant South, the beloved but rather antiquated Tan Son Nhat International Airport (IATA: SGN) has served Ho Chi Minh City since the 1930s.

Airports in VietnamImage source: davidhkmwp

To ease traffic flow to the Saigon airport, talks to begin construction of the planned Long Thanh International Airport (IATA: LON) in neighbouring Dong Nai province have restarted

Upon full completion, Long Thanh International Airport hopes to handle 100 million passengers and five million tons of cargo annually.

Mr Thanh, lead designer for a local architectural firm, agreed that a new international airport would definitely reduce Tan Son Nhat Airport’s current strain. He was, however, concerned about the distance between the newly proposed airport and the CBD.

“The distance may not be an issue for international flights, but it’s not going to be feasible for domestic flights,” he said.

“I think they need to build a metro to connect Saigon’smain city area and Long Thanh airport.”

In a similar tune, construction of the nearby Phan Thiet Airport (IATA: PHH) continues and the initial completion estimate of 2018 has been delayed till 2020. Phan Thiet Airport is approximately equidistant between Phan Thiet City & the popular beach resort town Mui Ne.

The beach resort cities in central Vietnam are also expecting a renaissance in terms of aviational convenience. Cam Ranh International Airport (IATA: CXR) which serves both Cam Ranh Bay and Nha Trang City is ready to open a newly built international terminal. Tourist arrivals from China have risen 400 percent between 2016 and 2017 and local authorities hope that a new terminal will handle arrivals more effectively and attract new direct-flight routes from other countries. Currently, direct flights from Kuala Lumpur and Incheon are available along with seasonal flights from a number of cities in China and Russia. The new terminal is planned to expand the coverage to other promising locations such as Singapore and Japan.

Airports in VietnamImage source: lj-asia.com

In march this year, the Municipal Committee Secretary of Da Nang, Mr Truong Quang Nghia, expressed his concerns about increased air traffic during a meeting with the Ministry of Transport. Air travel arrivals to Da Nang City have been increasing steadily at 38-40 percent per annum. Based on this prediction, Da Nang International Airport (IATA: DAD) will reach its maximum annual capacity of 30,000,000 arrivals within two years. In November last year, Da Nang hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Week and expects foreign investment to increase rapidly in the near future.

Further north in Hanoi, numerous policy-makers have been voicing the urgency to conduct land clearance and acquisition in advance even before conclusive plans for expanding Noi Bai International Airport (IATA: HAN) are made.

Airports in VietnamImage source: thudogroup.vn

“If the government does not invest in the expansion of Noi Bai Airport within three to five years there may very well be a major crisis,” said Hanoi’s Municipal Committee’s Deputy Secretary and Chairperson of Hanoi’s People’s Committee, Mr Nguyen Duc Chung.

“As such, Hanoi suggests that land acquisition should occur a step ahead of expansion plans for convenience of investment and as well as for cost-saving reasons,” he said.

In a similar mood, authorities of Hai Phong province are urging VietJet Aviation Joint Stock Company, commonly known simply as Vietjet Air, to proceed with the investment for the expansion of Cat Bi International Airport’s (IATA: HPH) Terminal 2. VietJet operates a majority of flights inbound & outbound of HPH with numerous domestic destinations and regular flights to Thailand & Korea. Vietjet is slated to provide 30% of the grand 6000 billion VND that will be utilized for this expansion.

Not too far away in Bai Tu Long archipelago which neighbours the world-famous UNESCO Heritage Site Halong Bay, Van Don International Airport (IATA: VDO) is entering the final stages of phase 1 construction and authorities are estimating it be fully-operational in October this year. Van Don District is amongst one of three regions in Vietnam which have been selected to be an SAEZ (Special Administrative & Economic Zone) since December 2016 alongside Phu Quoc Island & Van Phong Bay. All three selected SAEZs boasts beautiful landscape & strategic geographical placement which are seen to be ideal for economical development.

Airports in VietnamImage source: travelvietnam.com

Plans to revive the unused Na San Airport (IATA: SQH) which serves Son La Province have been officially abandoned earlier this year. As such, Dien Bien Phu Airport (IATA: DIN), 110 km away from Na San Airport, will remain the sole choice of domestic air travel for most inhabitants who reside in the large northwestern province.

Currently, Vietnam has a grand total of 21 active airports serving both international and domestic flights. Vietnamese authorities hope to raise this number to 28 in 2030. With discussions of the semi-mythical 1500-km North-South High Speed Rail project resurfacing, will Vietnam’s domestic aviation plans remain cast in stone? Time will tell.

Banner Image source: thanhnien.vn