Vietnam to restore international commercial flights

The South Asian country of Vietnam is restoring international commercial flights from December 15 for travelers from countries deemed highly safe from COVID-19.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport proposed resuming regular international flights carrying passengers on nine routes across Asia and the United States in two trial phases. According to local media reports, the first phase will initiate from December 15, allowing international commercial air travel from 9 destinations representing China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States of America (San Francisco or Los Angeles). These nine countries are regarded safe to resume international service and are significant political and economic partners of Vietnam.

Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City will connect the international flights to Vietnam. The first phase will see a total of four flights per week every way for each side through the end of 2021 under the plan. The ministry anticipates 14000 arrivals per week to Vietnam, which culminates in some 28000 arrivals during the proposed first phase.

The second phase will start within one month from the end of phase 1, opening doors to flights from Malaysia, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Australia, and Russia, and will last for one month. Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Paris, Frankfurt, Sydney, and Moscow are the proposed cities and phase 1permitted cities for flights on routes connecting to Vietnam. For this phase, Da Nang Airport in central Da Nang City, Nha Trang Cam Ranh in central Khanh Hoa Province, Phu Quoc, and Van Don will also handle international passenger movements, and Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat airports.

Eventually, the flight frequency will rise to seven flights on each route in either direction, bringing around 40,000 passengers per week after the second phase of reopening.

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The ministry will monitor and review the risk assessment process for complete normalization of international air services and the assurance of effective pandemic control with the realization of approved plans and adjustments according to the actual situation on opening phase.

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The ministry will reopen flights gradually to other countries on a reciprocal basis. It is anticipated that fully-vaccinated passengers or those who have negative PCR or rapid antigen reports for COVID-19 or travelers recovered from disease won’t need to abide by quarantine regulations upon arrival.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport has suggested Foreign Affairs Ministry make arrangements on vaccine passport recognition, highlighting approved countries in the two-phase resumption of flights.

The proposal for the two-phased reopening plan comes as a move to revert to previous international air traffic capacity, speed up economic and tourism recovery, and welcome travel demand from Vietnamese citizens returning for the upcoming Lunar New Year and a high number of investors, experts, and laborers wanting to enter Vietnam for working and exploring business investment opportunities.

Resumption after nearly two years

Vietnam quickly increased travel restrictions and canceled all inbound commercial flights for months in March last year as the pandemic took hold. Vietnam’s seeming defeat of COVID-19 is directly connected to Vietnam’s strict travel restriction, enforced quarantine, and contact tracing. Making it almost impossible to fly in, the Vietnamese government went far with a nearly hermetical seal, allowing the entry only for Vietnamese, repatriates, foreign experts, and highly skilled workers upon state-monitored quarantine.

Challenges

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated Vietnam as a high-risk assessment level 3 country for COVID-19 on its latest travel advisory. On the other hand, China and Hong Kong have strict quarantine regulations for all international passengers. Meanwhile, Vietnam has already welcomed two flights consisting of travelers from Japan and South Korea in November this year by enforcing strict requirements on arrival.

Foreigners were required to have full COVID-19 vaccination, present negative PCR test 3 days before departure, and be part of organized tours to enter Vietnam. Cracking open its tightly shut international borders, Hoiana welcomed almost 430 passengers arriving via two international flights where they could visit the world heritage sites of Hoi An and the My Son Sanctuary.

The imminent international border reopening is vital to recovering the devastated tourism industry amid the pandemic. With new concerns over the Omicron variant, Vietnam coordinates with World Health Organization and the US CDC to tackle it without travel suspension. Vietnam is a beautiful Southeast Asian country best known for vibrant beaches, stunning mountains, budget accommodations, and ancient culture dating back to 2000BC.

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