Vietnam Airlines to Fly U.S. in Late 2007

Vietnam Airlines, the country's national flag carrier, has announced that it will open its first direct route to the United States by the end of 2007, according to local media on Friday.

"Vietnam Airlines has done many works relating to safety, security, vehicles, etc.. Vietnam Airlines is determined to fly direct to the United States in late 2007," Young People newspaper quoted the carrier's vice general director Pham Ngoc Minh as saying.

The biggest difficulty faced by Vietnam Airlines when launching the route is competition, Minh said, noting that 11-12 airlines currently transport passengers from the United States to Vietnam.

Airfare for direct flights by Vietnam Airlines will be the same as that by other carriers: about 1,000 U.S. dollars for a return ticket, he said.

United Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to offer Vietnam direct services since 1975, with the inauguration of its first flights from the U.S. city of San Francisco to southern Ho Chi Minh City in December 2005. Under the Air Services Agreement approved by Vietnam in December 2003, two U.S. and two Vietnamese passenger airlines can fly between the two countries for the first two years.

In 2007, Vietnam Airlines will launch some regional routes linking Vietnam's Hanoi city to South Korea's Busan; Hanoi to Japan's Nagoya; and Hanoi to Laos' Luang Prabang, Cambodia's Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City, Minh said.

Vietnam Airlines this year targets carrying 7.6 million passengers and over 119,000 tons of cargoes, posting respective surges of 13.7 percent and 14 percent against last year, said Vietnam News newspaper.

The carrier also eyes a 13.3-percent increase in turnover which stood at 17.5 trillion Vietnamese dong (nearly 1.1 billion dollars) in 2006.

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