"Air Speed Up will get a license this month if its application is approved by the government," CAAV's deputy general director Lai Xuan Thanh told the Daily yesterday. He added that the government was considering the dossier.

Thanh explained that the ministry would quickly issue a license for Air Speed Up when the agency received approval of the government as the current process of licensing for new airlines in Vietnam.

Vo Huy Cuong, director of CAAV's Air Transport Department, told the Daily that a licensed airline would have a maximum of two-years to gain required certificates and prepare for commercial flights, and would have its license revoked if it fails to start up operation in the period.

Things have progressed smoothly with Air Speed Up in the past several months since Vietnam's famous songwriter Ha Huy Dung, who is better known as Ha Dung, submitted to CAAV an application to open a private airline in Vietnam.

Air Speed Up has chartered capital of 200 billion dong (over US$12.3 million), the minimum level required by existing civil aviation regulations for a carrier that operates domestic flights.

The regulations also stipulate that a private airline must have 1-10 aircraft and register chartered capital of over 500 billion dong for international air routes. Foreign investors can own up to 49% of capital in a Vietnamese air transport company.

Ha Dung, who opened a consulting firm for Boeing in 1997, pinned high hope that Air Speed Up would be able to employ enough crew and aircraft for the first commercial flight between Hanoi and HCM City scheduled in the fourth quarter of this year.

Air Speed Up will be the fifth airline and the second private carrier in Vietnam if it is licensed. The first private carrier Viet Jet Aviation Joint-Stock Co (Viet Jet Air) was approved with.chartered capital of 600 billion dong (more than US$37 million) to operate domestic and international flights. Its local flights are expected to take off late this year.

Viet Jet Air is now in negotiations to lease 10 Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 aircraft for the first two-years of operation. The planes will be configured to have 130 economy class seats, and 12 premium-economy seats.

The joint-stock carrier will commence domestic flights between Hanoi, HCM City and Da Nang before expanding its services to as many domestic airports as possible and regional destinations if they promise profitability.

The aviation market has continued to register a double-digit growth over the past years, and attracted more than 14 million passengers last year, up nearly 20% over the previous year. Of the total number, the State-run Vietnam Airlines transported over eight million passengers, as against 7.2 million in 2006.

The national flag air carrier and its subsidiary Vietnam Air Services Co (Vasco) hold over 80% of Vietnam's burgeoning aviation market, and the rest by Pacific Airlines, which will complete its transformation on May 23 to become Jetstar Pacific under a business service agreement approved by Pacific's shareholders and Qantas Group's airline Jetstar Airways.

Though the government granted 'in principle' approval for the establishment of Phu Quoc Air but Thanh said CAAV had not receive any application from Vietnamese investors of this private airline.

T&C Investment Joint Stock Co and Saigon Airlines previously announced plans to open private air carriers in Vietnam, but they have not submitted their dossiers to CAAV.

Saigon Times Daily - May 24, 2008