Three major airlines in Vietnam have suspended regular schedules due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The rise in cases has coincided with a drop in demand. Combined with strict social-distancing measures, there aren’t enough travelers to justify many domestic flights bringing the aviation industry to a standstill.
Bamboo Airways confirmed it suspended almost all domestic flights yesterday and will not operate regular flights again until at least August 7th. The airline was gradually announcing changes to its schedule over the past few weeks, making changes on the 21st, 22nd, and 24th before finally suspending operations yesterday.
Bamboo isn’t the only airline affected. According to local media outlet vnExpress, both VietJet and Pacific Airlines have made significant adjustments to their schedules. The airlines have canceled most flights. The most affected cities are Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. Flights have been gradually phased out over the past month, with most flights between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City stopping on the 23rd.
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Airlines suffering despite taking measures
Flights have been decreasing in frequency since mid-June when the country entered a third wave of the virus. The increase in cases of COVID-19 has reduced the demand for flights. Furthermore, increased restrictions have made it hard to meet capacity requirements to make flights worthwhile. Social distancing measures while traveling and in major cities have made travel almost impossible.
The result is that the aviation and tourism industries are again at a standstill. Currently on Vietnam Airlines is the only carrier operating flights between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The airline is operating a maximum of two flights per day. Earlier this month, the airline became only the 9th airline to receive Skytrax 5-star COVID-19 airline safety rating award.
Despite taking measures to protect staff and customers, the airline is now suffering from low demand as cases increase.
More restrictions to come
Bamboo Airways’ two-week hiatus coincides with the restrictions placed on the 13 million people living in Ho Chi Minh City. Foreign arrivals into the country were suspended in June. More restrictions will likely come into force unless the outbreak is contained. Restrictions have been slowly increasing over the past month.
Just two weeks ago, the airlines in Vietnam were preparing to reopen after a surge in June. The Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism talked about getting ready for tourists; now, domestic travel has been practically suspended.
So far, Vietnam has been reasonably quick to respond to surges and imposes effective restrictions. It will likely take several months before airlines can seriously think about recovering. Domestic operations will need to strengthen before any of the airlines can focus on international recovery. Bamboo Airways has plans to fly to the US but will once again have to wait.
Low vaccination rates in the country are, of course, part of the issue. Something the government is hoping to change. From September, only fully vaccinated pilots will be able to fly in Vietnam. Just over a month away, come September, Vietnam may have more vaccinated pilots than flights.
What do you think of the situation in Vietnam? Should airlines prepare for a difficult few months? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.