Officials Review Vietnam’s ‘Golden Air Route’

The government is reviewing a proposal by Vietnam that would open Cambodian airspace to planes flying direct between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and potentially generate million of dollars in revenue, an aviation official said Wednesday.

The proposal follows a meeting last month between Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Vietnam’s transport minister, Dinh La Thang, in August, during which Cambodia gave its neighbor the “green light” to fly between Vietnam’s two major cities, said Chhun Sivorn, director of air navigation at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, the government’s aviation regulator.

The “golden air route,” as it has being referred to in Vietnamese media, will also pass through Laos and cut down the travel time between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh by about 20 minutes, Mr. Sivorn said.

Although Mr. Sivorn said he could not confirm Vietnamese media reports that estimated Cambodia’s revenue from the route to be $25 million per year, he said the figure was not unrealistic.

The proposed route would initially be open to only Vietnam Airlines and low-cost VietJet Air, but would eventually be available to international carriers, he said.

The two airlines would pay about $400 per flight through Cambodia in air-navigation fees.

But the more-direct route would also save the airlines money, Mr. Sivorn noted, as their fuel costs would be reduced.

“Companies like AirAsia and other budget airlines are trying to find ways of being competitive by saving money and time,” he said.

According to Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre News, when the cross-Cambodia route was proposed by Vietnamese engineer Tran Dinh Ba in 2012, the idea was met with “waves of objections” by aviation experts over safety concerns.

Mr. Sivorn said Cambodian aviation official are currently conducting a feasibility study for the route.

“We have to examine the existing routes [that pass through Cambodian airspace] to consider the possibilities of providing airlines with different separation levels,” he said, referring to the minimum distance needed between aircraft to avoid collisions.

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