COVID-19 freezing flights, airlines struggling to survive

The fourth wave of COVID-19 continues to cripple Vietnam’s aviation sector. Airlines are running low on cash flow while still having to spend tens of billions of dong each day on operations. Facing a host of difficulties, they are struggling to survive.

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Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet Air have a combined fleet of nearly 200 modern aircraft plying routes with busy flight frequencies.

The ongoing fourth wave of COVID-19 starting from April 27 however, has frozen flights conducted by all carriers.

Only nine aircraft of Vietnam Airlines’ fleet of 90 are now in service. The remainder sit idle at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCM City.

There is not enough space for parking all of the grounded aircraft, however, and Noi Bai has asked the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam for permission to close taxiway S1 so it can act as a parking apron.

Summer is the busiest season for airports, but these days, Noi Bai, the second largest airport in the country, is only catering to 5,000-6,000 passengers a day on around 60-70 flights.

Many customers have returned their tickets over concerns regarding the pandemic, and many flights have been delayed or cancelled due to low passenger numbers.

With passengers and flights down, airports are almost empty.

The losses caused by the impact of previous outbreaks have not yet been recovered. The fourth outbreak, considered the most severe in Vietnam since the pandemic began, has now hit the country, putting airlines into the worst situation they’ve ever faced. Employees must take leave or unpaid leave, while airlines must still pay aircraft rentals, make bank loan repayments, and pay maintenance fees, among other things.

Facing challenges, some airlines have been forced to sell aircraft, lay-off employees, or take out loans at high interest rates to maintain operations. Experts say a complete support system is therefore needed so that aviation can overcome the difficulties and again make contributions to the State budget, the economy, and society./.

VNA