Vietnam needs more airports to grow aviation industry

(Saigon Investment) - Vietnam has a total of 23 airports currently, and even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, only a third of these airports were reasonably profitable. 
Perspective of Phan Thiet airport, about 200km from HCMC.
Perspective of Phan Thiet airport, about 200km from HCMC.

At present many airports are facing heavy losses with very few passengers passing through. Except for some major airports such as Noi Bai, Tan Son Nhat, Da Nang, and Cam Ranh, which are still operating partially, other airports are running in the red. Despite this, many localities recently proposed the construction of new airports, raising concerns about unnecessary planning and excess waste. Saigon Investment interviewed Mr. BUI DOAN NE, Vice President of Vietnam Association of Aviation Enterprises, to discuss this issue further.

JOURNALIST: - Sir, in context of a serious decline in the aviation industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic, localities such as Ha Tinh, Ninh Thuan, and Bac Lieu continue to propose the construction of new airports. What are your views on this issue?

Mr. BUI DOAN NE: - I think the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the domestic aviation industry has been heavy and long-lasting, but we will be able to overcome it in time. Once the pandemic vaccine is able to cover and protect vast numbers of the population, we will be back to reviving the travel industry once again. Difficulties caused by the pandemic are only temporary until the disease lasts, while airport planning is a long-term issue. In developed countries, the demand for air travel is huge. The growth rate of Vietnam's aviation industry in the last ten years has also been rather fast. If we do not plan now for a long-term future, we will be confronted by an overcrowded population and will have to rethink our strategy on building more airports to cope with a growing demand. We will face immense difficulties, and the aviation industry will find it hard to keep up with a fast growing economy.

- Sir, in the future, if any province has an airport, will it lead to redundancy and waste of resources?

- With a population of approximately 100 million people and travel needs increasing by the day, and in the context of Vietnam's increasing integration with the world, the number of airports currently in operation are certainly not enough. Airport planning is a long-term vision, and investments must be made very carefully. Each construction of an airport must relate to local development plans with specific requirements. Factors such as economic efficiency, social impact and the environment must be carefully considered. Previously, we only focused on three main regions of Vietnam, namely, the North, Central and Southern regions. Now the flight network can connect with each local airport, so it is not necessary to calculate the distance between places but whether the airport at that place is operational.

- Sir, are many airports in Vietnam not exploiting their full capacity?

- This is because connectivity between airports and neighboring urban areas and economic centers is weak. This restriction reduces the need for air transportation, especially for cargo. This shortcoming is due to the fact that the construction and development planning for each type of transport has not been closely connected with each other. In addition, the quality of construction of the transport network does not meet all essential requirements at present.

The above situation requires adjustment at planning stage, but lack of sufficient and comprehensive consideration requires a combination of transport systems. Therefore, in coming time, it is necessary to review and supplement traffic planning in localities that already have or are about to have airports, so as to synchronize the overall transportation network. For airport planning, this should be a mandatory criterion before investing.

- Sir, many new factors and the current aviation crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic led to changes in the market. Will it require planning to make necessary adjustments in the future?

- As I said before, planning is a long-term issue, and should be done early and adjusted as needed. In the immediate future, we need to review and evaluate current policies on airport construction and management, and improve investment processes and procedures for airports. Currently, the mobilization of non-budget capital sources for airport development is still facing many procedural issues such as in handling problems related to land, investment procedures, and incompetence of concerned agencies related to airports. Therefore, the Government must issue a new decree to replace Decree 102/2015/ND-CP on airport management and operations, so that investment in airport infrastructure can be carried out as planned and made suitable with actual needs.

- Thank you very much.

The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam has submitted to the Ministry of Transport the final report on the master plan on development of national airports and entire airport network until 2030, with a vision till 2050. Accordingly, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam proposes that by 2030, the country will have 26 airports, including 14 international and 12 domestic airports. Three new ports will be Long Thanh in Dong Nai province, Phan Thiet in Binh Thuan province, and Quang Tri. Compared with previous plan approved by the Prime Minister, the number of airports have decreased from 28 to 26. In vision till 2050, Vietnam plans for 30 airports, with 5 international and 15 domestic airports. Four more airports are also being planned, namely, Na San, Lai Chau, Cao Bang and a second airport in Hanoi.