Aircraft giant Boeing is working with both the United States and Vietnamese governments to improve the latter’s aviation safety rating and help allow its state-owned airline to operate direct flights between the two countries.
This was recently brought to light by Dinesh Keskar, the Senior Vice President of Boeing’s Asia Pacific and India sales, who said:
“Right now, they don’t have Category 1 (CAT1). So we are working with the Vietnamese government and the U.S. government to open that up.”
At the moment, Vietnam carries a Category 2 ranking, meaning its safety processes are not enough and the FAA is examining it.
The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam stated that it follows standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. However, in order to attain the CAT1 ranking, it is obliged to make specific improvements. This includes completing a new set of regulations, making sure it has adequate number of staff and improving its supervisory capacity.
Vietnam Airlines is looking at launching open non-stop flights to the US either in 2019 or 2020. San Francisco and Los Angeles are two destinations being eyed.
The carrier has already inked an initial agreement with Boeing to purchase its widebody 777-8 jets, but a final order would depend on the country acquiring the upgrade, Keskar relayed, saying that any airline needs to be sure of its routes before placing large aircraft orders.
“The investment is big and you should be able to fill that airplane. We feel optimistic that this year will get them the Category 1,” Keskar added.
Vietnam and the US signed an air transport agreement back in 2003 to let carriers to operate direct flights between the two countries.
In 2004, Vietnam Airlines looked for permission from the US to provide direct services, but the request was formally rebuffed because the CAAV did not fulfill the safety supervision requirements established by the FAA.
The airline said it has reapplied to the US Department of Transportation to start operating direct flights.
In addition to rigid legal requirements, a shortage of aircraft that are eligible to operate direct flights to the U.S. could also hinder plans.
“Vietnam Airlines does not have any airplanes that are currently eligible to fly direct to the U.S.,” said Duong Tri Thanh, CEO of Vietnam Airlines.