A planned project to expand the taxiway and apron at Tan Son Nhat International Airport will not affect the travel of passengers and the operations of airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said Monday.
Vietnamese carriers are worried that their flying schedules at the Ho Chi Minh City airport, and the flying time of one million passengers, will be greatly affected when the upgrade takes place between April 10 and June 26, according to a plan proposed by the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV).
The airlines will be required to cut their flight numbers during the construction work, which coincides with a high demand season for air travel as it is summer time and many public holidays fall in those two months.
Vietnam will enjoy a six-day holiday from April 28 to May 3, thanks to the coincidence of three national festivals, namely the death anniversary of the Hung Kings, believed to be the founders of the nation (April 28), Reunification Day (April 30), and International Labor Day (May 1), in a week.
“No matter what plan for the upgrade is adopted, we ensure there will be no impact on the travel of people during the April-May holiday,” CAAV chief Lai Xuan Thanh was quoted by Dan Tri (Intellectual) newswire as saying.
Thanh, however, admitted that the CAAV and ACV have yet to make up their mind on when to start the project.
“It depends on many factors,” he told the Hanoi-based news website, while elaborating that these include “the essentiality of the upgrade and whether it comes during the peak time of the airlines or the rainy season.”
Tan Son Nhat currently sees up to 30 flights departing or landing on an hourly basis, and the frequency should be cut to 25 flights per hour during the upgrade.
This means carriers have to either cancel or adjust the schedules of a number of flights, which they say will “drive about a million passengers to change their flying time.”
The airport will suffer a huge loss in terms of fee collection, according to the airlines.
The Vietnamese carriers have thus petitioned to delay the upgrade to August or September to avoid the peak season.
“No one builds the taxiway during the monsoon season,” Thanh was quoted as responding to the petition.
The CAAV chief also underscored that it is necessary to expand the taxiway as many airlines have purchased new aircraft.
While Jetstar Pacific only had five planes at this time of last year, the low-cost carrier has doubled its fleet, according to data obtained by VnExpress newspaper. VietJet Air now has 23 jets compared to 15 planes a year earlier.
The aviation official also made it clear that reducing the frequency from 30 to 25 flights does not mean five flights will have to be canceled.
“Their schedule will only be changed to the off-peak time,” he told Dan Tri.
In a separate interview with Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper, Thanh said the ACV plan in which the upgrade is set for the April 10 – June 26 period has not received the final approval from the CAAV.
The aviation authority has tasked the ACV with preparing a more effective plan that will have the minimal impact on the operations of the carriers.
The airlines, meanwhile, are requested to submit their reports on how their operations will be hurt during the upgrade to the CAAV for consideration before the authority makes the final decision, Thanh told the Ho Chi Minh City-based newspaper.