Air France deal to service key routes
AIR France has finalised a two-year, 350 million French franc (about HK$479.85 million) deal to provide planes, pilots and technicians for Vietnam Airlines on some of its key Asian trunk routes.
Washington, which has a long-standing embargo on US trade with Hanoi, has blocked several Vietnamese attempts in the past three years to buy or lease Boeings or European-made Airbuses, which have some US-made parts.
Vietnam Civil Aviation Authority director-general Nguyen Hong Nhi and Air France group chairman Bernard Attali have signed the first part of a ''preferred partner'' agreement that could have far-reaching consequences.
Both airlines have agreed to formalise their partnership for a more structural alliance by July 1, 1995, with a view to the possible privatisation of Vietnam Airlines.
From October 25 this year, Air France will operate three of its Airbus A320s from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi airports on behalf of Vietnam Airlines on medium-haul domestic services and those to neighbouring cities, including Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
A total of 21 pilots and 15 technicians from Air France's maintenance engineering department will be assigned to Vietnam Airlines and based there for the two years stipulated in the agreement.
In January next year, two more A320s may join the first three, together with 14 more pilots and extra technicians.
Air France will retain control over the aircraft and their operation, with planes and crew available on a commercial basis.
Cabin staff will be trained by Air France instructors at their home base in Vietnam.
In addition, 32 pilots and 32 Vietnamese maintenance technicians will attend training courses at the Air France training institute in Vilgenis, France.
Other Vietnam Airlines pilots and technicians may follow suit depending on requirements.
Vietnam Airlines will pay Air France for the training services on June 30 1995. However, if both parties agree, this could be considered as Air France's initial contribution to the capital of the Vietnamese carrier.
Mr Attali said this operation had two objectives: To contribute to the modernisation of the Vietnamese carrier so that it may occupy its ''rightful'' position among the major Southeast Asian airlines; and To establish the conditions for a more solid partnership.
An accord between the two airlines was formalised during a two-day visit to Hanoi by French President Francois Mitterrand in February.
when Air France demand for pilots and maintenance personnel was on the wane.