Air Mekong looking to avoid turbulence

A fledgling Vietnamese private airline is spreading its wings to compete in the domestic market, avoiding the fate of bankrupted private carrier Indochina Airlines.

BIM Group-owned Air Mekong on October 9 will start its first flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Con Dao and Phu Quoc islands. In addition, it will open other routes from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to highland cities of Dalat, Buon Me Thuot and Pleiku.

Air Mekong will help satisfy the rising demand on main trunk routes

The private airline will also operate the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi-Danang routes, said Air Mekong chairman Doan Quoc Viet.

“It is difficult for us to compete on golden air routes like Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi-Danang. By focusing on destinations on islands and highland regions as well as providing excellent services, I believe our airline will compete with other rivals,” Viet said.

He said Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific had not meet rising demand on these main trunk routes.

Air Mekong will be the second private airline taking off in Vietnam. Indochina Airlines flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and Danang, from November 2008. However, it ran out of cash a year later.

Another private airline, VietJet Air, has not taken off yet, though it has received strong support from Asia’s largest low-cost carrier Air Asia, which bought a 30 per cent stake in April.

“Doing business in the aviation sector is not easy for new private airlines, especially when the competition is become harder,” said Luu Thanh Binh, vice head of Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam.

At present, national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and state-controlled Jetstar Pacific Airlines are the two largest carriers in Vietnam. To improve their competitiveness, the two airlines have been implementing promotion campaigns on all air routes.

For Air Mekong, Viet said it would face difficulties in its first one or two years or “even suffer financial losses”.

“We have planned for all difficulties and also taken lessons from Indochina Airlines,” said Viet.

Air Mekong had finished discussion about selling a 30 per cent stake to United States-based Sky West airline and now is waiting for the final approval from the government. “The cooperation with Sky West will ensure that we do not lack experience to run the airline safety and profitably,” Viet said.

Air Mekong will use four CRJ-900 Bombardier aircrafts, with 34 flights each day. It is now expanding to 200 air ticket agencies.

Ngoc Linh (vir.com.vn)