“This is our first direct air link between the two countries. The new route will boost bilateral relations, tourism and enhance the ASEAN integration process,” Vietnamese Ambassador to Indonesia Nguyen XuanThuy said during the grand opening of the new route at the Borobudur Hotel in Jakarta on Wednesday.

“This will ignite new interest among businesspeople in both countries,” he added.

The airline said it would increase the frequency of flights in relation to growing demand.

According to Vietnam Airlines' general manager in Indonesia, Nghiem Van Khanh, the first flight from Ho Chi Minh City landed at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Dec.2 with 143 passengers.

“It’s a three-hour flight between the two cities,” Nghiem said.

Vietnam Airlines, a partner of SkyTeam, recently launched another new route to Chinese city Chengdu.

With this new flight, Jakarta is now connected to six ASEAN countries but Indonesia has yet to be connected to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

The carrier, Nghiem said, was using Airbus 31 planes for the new route between Indonesia and Vietnam. The flights, which are available every week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, depart from Ho Chi Minh City at 10 a.m., arriving in Jakarta at 1 p.m., and leave Jakarta for Ho Chi Minh City at 1:45 p.m.

A local tour operator said that Vietnam Airlines was offering a special promotional price of US$300 for a return ticket to Ho Chi Minh City.

Economic relations between Vietnam and Indonesia are rapidly progressing just ahead of the much awaited ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. In 2011, bilateral trade surged to $4.73 billion, a significant increase from $3.08 billion in 2010. In the first nine months of this year, trade remained at a healthy level of $3.50 billion despite the global slowdown in international trade.

By Veeramalla Anjaiah - The Jakarta Post - December 13, 2012