200 South Korean tourists arriving in November were the first foreign arrivals to arrive in Kiên Giang Island, Phú Quốc Province after two years due to COVID-19 pandemic. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Đạt
HÀ NỘI — After nearly two years of suspended international flights, with exceptions only for returning citizens and foreign experts coming to work, the Ministry of Transport has requested the resumption of regular international flights to Việt Nam.
The ministry had a recent meeting with representatives of Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, Bamboo Airways, and Pacific Airlines on the difficulties and solutions to restoring regular international routes.
The airlines and airport operators have proposed the resumption of regular international flights, deputy transport minister Lê Anh Tuấn said.
While foreign tourists can visit Việt Nam at the moment under a pilot scheme, the fees are expensive and the procedure is complicated, putting Vietnamese airlines at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries.
Solutions to facilitate more arrivals include easing medical quarantine regulations and recognising 'vaccine passports' for international flights.
According to airport operators, airports are ready to receive international flights. All staff are vaccinated and airports have arranged areas and equipment to receive flights and passengers to ensure the prevention and control of COVID-19.
Representatives of the ministries and related agencies agree that the re-opening of international flights is consistent with the Government’s policy on safe, flexible and effective adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reopening international flights will also meet people’s travel needs and promote recovery in the tourism sector and the wider economy in general, said the deputy minister.
In the proposal, the Chairman of the management board of national carrier Vietnam Airlines Đặng Ngọc Hoà mentioned a series of risks if international routes are not reopened soon.
On the basis of realising the dual goals of pandemic prevention and socio-economic recovery, it is necessary to gradually open the door to international visitors from areas with high vaccination rates and good handle on the virus, Hoà said.
Việt Nam will lose its competitive advantage in terms of destination and face many other consequences should the country remain sluggish in reopening borders, according to airlines.
The aviation and tourism industry have been dealt a severe blow and is facing risks of bankruptcy along with highly limited ability to compete with other businesses in the region, making recovery after the pandemic even more difficult, he said.
In the first ten months this year, the total air transport market carried 13.4 million passengers, just 22.5 per cent compared to 2019.
From the beginning of the fourth wave of infections between May and mid-November this year, only 2.1 million passengers were transported, 5.8 per cent of the same period in 2019.
International visitors were only 1 per cent and domestic visitors were 10 per cent, respectively.
As vaccination rates increase around the world, many countries have launched competitive policies to attract international tourists, in anticipation of a rise in travel demand, Hoà said.
Vietjet Air’s Vice General Director Nguyễn Thanh Sơn also said that reopening international routes is essential, especially for countries that have been a high vaccination rate.
Easing medical quarantine
To ensure feasibility, airlines proposed lifting medical quarantine regulations for passengers who are either fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative via rapid antigen testing or RT-PCR within 72 hours before their flight.
The Ministry of Health said that it will draw up guidelines on easing medical quarantine regulations for people entering Việt Nam and that the regulations will be issued soon.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively promoting negotiations with partners on the mutual recognition of 'vaccine passports', while the Ministry of Public Security is developing a COVID-19 app named IGOVN to integrate with immigration management, medical declaration, vaccination certifications and can be linked with the national PC-COVID software.
Discussing whether the Omicron variant will affect the progress of reopening international routes, Deputy Director of the Civil Aviation Administration of Việt Nam (CAAV) Võ Huy Cường said: "We still have to actively prepare for re-opening as soon as the Ministry of Health has specific regulations on quarantine and completed negotiations with the countries we connected."
According to Cường, with the Omicron variant, the CAAV asked the Ministry of Transport to report to the Prime Minister for permission not to conduct flights, including relief flights, from ten African countries to Việt Nam.
Flights from other countries will continue as normal, Cường said.
“That is the way other countries are doing it,” he said. — VNS