Carrier plans expansion with US$500m in plane purchases
HUW WATKIN in Hanoi
Vietnam Airlines is seeking approval to expand its fleet to enable it to open at least three new routes, according to company general director Dao Manh Nhuong.
Mr Nhuong said the national carrier had asked the government to approve purchases of aircraft worth US$500 million ahead of plans to reopen the Hanoi - Seoul route and to establish services between the capital and Kunming, in the mainland's Yunnan province, and between Hanoi and Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Vietnam Airline's existing fleet includes 10 Airbus A-320s, three Boeing 767s and six French-made ATR 72s.
The expansion plans were made public following the announcement that the carrier had made a profit last year after two successive years of losses, but the exact amount was not disclosed.
Mr Nhuong, however, said the corporation had reported a turnover of close to $55.5 million last year, a 5 per cent increase on turnover for 1998. In the 12 months to the end of December, Vietnam airlines carried more than 2.5 million passengers and 41,000 tonnes of cargo.
The figures represent increases of 5 and 8 per cent over 1998 and were posted less than the expected number of tourists in November and December.
The carrier accounted for 39 per cent of passenger traffic on international routes to and from Vietnamese cities last year and recorded an average booking rate of 76 per cent on domestic routes.