The bilateral political, economic, and social relations between Vietnam and the United States have seen significant progress in recent years.
Several important international trade agreements have been signed by Vietnam in the last five years, including the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Investment Protection Agreement (IPA) with the European Union in 2019, the Comprehensive Partnership Agreement, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in 2018. These are significant milestones that have made it easier for investment and trade between the two countries to grow strongly. On the Vietnamese side, the country’s image on the international tourism map is growing in popularity. Large international events and important summits have been held in Vietnam in recent years since Vietnam is seen as a safe and welcoming destination with many magnificent landscapes and world heritage sites of various types, including history, culture, and nature. Despite the fact that the United States has the world’s largest economy and a well-developed tourist industry, the demand for outbound tours by US people is very high. The United States frequently appears on lists of the world’s most traveled countries. All of the above-mentioned are the grounds for strengthening the United States and Vietnam’s aviation cooperation, which generates opportunities and ideal conditions for the two countries’ tourism cooperation and commerce exchange to grow.
In terms of international tourists to Vietnam, the US tourism market has steadily grown, placing it among the top five largest countries in terms of visitor numbers to Vietnam in recent years. In particular, by the year 2018, there were 687.2 thousand American visitors, accounting for 4.4% of all foreign visitors to Vietnam. The majority of them are Vietnamese living in the United States, with an average growth rate of 11.55% between 2014 and 2018. According to the data compiled by the Vietnamese Tourism Department from a survey on international tourists to Vietnam in 2017, 90.2% of American tourists arrived in Vietnam by air, while 6% of others arrived by sea and the remaining 3.8% arrived via other forms of transport. Apart from Vietnamese Americans, 83% tourists travelled to Vietnam for sightseeing and holidays, 9.6% for business, and the remaining 4.8% for visiting friends and family, according to the same data source.
For a long period, when there was no direct flight connection between Vietnam and the United States, airline companies had to send their passengers to other international airports such as Incheon, Korea, Narita, Japan, Changi, Singapore, and Taipei, Taiwan before landing in Vietnam.
However, the aviation transportation between the two countries has recently had a better sign of development when the The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on November 4, 2021, that the license for Vietnam Airlines to operate regular commercial passenger and cargo flights between Vietnam and the US had been approved. Since the FAA is a competent authority in the United States for granting licenses, this license is the final legal requirement for Vietnam Airlines to deploy the regular US-Vietnam route. On November 16, 2021, Vietnam Airlines acquired the official license to conduct commercial flights between Vietnam and the United States. According to previous licenses granted to Vietnamese airline companies, in order to fly to the United States, charter flights from Vietnam had to follow strict requirements regarding the number of flights, time, and frequency of operations. The recent (FAA) certificate, however, allows them to proactively draw frequency and deploy the operation plan without any time limitations.
At the license handover ceremony, Mr. Charles Ranado, the Commercial Counselor of the US Embassy to Vietnam, said: “The establishment of regular non-stop America-Vietnam aviation routes is an important factor to help promote economic, cultural exchanges, and strengthen relations between Vietnam and the United States which also contributes to stronger development for the common prosperity of the two countries”.
Vietnam Airlines has scheduled the first regular commercial Vietnam-US flight from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco on November 28th, flying in 13 hours and 50 minutes. The return flight from San Francisco will leave on the evening of November 29th (American time) and arrive in Ho Chi Minh City on the morning of December 1st, taking 16 hours and 40 minutes. These two trips are expected to be served by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner wide-body aircraft. Then, starting from December 2021, Vietnam Airlines will operate two flights each week on the regular Ho Chi Minh City – San Francisco route. If the Covid-19 outbreak is under control and the Vietnamese government approves the return of regular international flights, Vietnam Airlines will continue to increase to 7 flights per week. Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, the most modern wide-body fleet owned by Vietnam Airlines, will be used for these flights to provide comfortable and convenient experiences to passengers for a long journey.
According to Vietnam Airlines’ General Director- Le Hong Ha, “the company will deploy more flights to other destinations in the US after San Francisco”. American experts will conduct necessary checks at Noi Bai airports in order to take advantage of flights from and to this location. He said “Vietnam Airlines will fly to Los Angeles in the very near future”. This is a very important event since after nearly 20 years of preparation in all aspects, on November 28, Vietnam Airlines will fly a regular direct route to the United States, a country with the world’s most stringent aviation security and legal barriers.
Mr. Dang Ngoc Hoa, Chairman of the Vietnam Airlines’ Administrative Council emphasized: “The official launch of regular aviation flights between Vietnam and the United States is a significant step forward in the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the USA, creating favorable conditions for further investment and trade between the two countries.” As a result, it is a new driving force for the rapid growth of the US-Vietnam aviation market, as well as raising Vietnam’s status in the world”
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