Vietnam Airlines plans to launch direct flights to the United Kingdom by the end of this year, president and CEO Pham Ngoc Minh said.
Minh made the announcement at a workshop in the British capital on Tuesday entitled "London – the prospective destination of Vietnam Airlines".
Minh said relations between Viet Nam and Britain had flourished over the last few years, and that London, a global aviation hub, was of strategic interest to the Vietnamese flag carrier.
About 90,000 passengers flew between the UK and Viet Nam last year, an increase of 28 per cent against 2009.
There are about 40,000 Vietnamese people living and working in Britain, and 7,000 students studying in the country.
"There is great potential for the air travel market between our two countries that warrant direct links," he said. "We came up with the initial assumption that we could start launching flights by the end of this year [from Ha Noi and HCM City to airports in London]."
Vu Quang Minh, the Vietnamese ambassador to Britain, said Vietnam Airlines' decision to launch direct flights between the two countries had the "strong political support of both governments" and was a goal of the Joint Declaration to establish a strategic partnership between the two countries in September 2010. He quoted the document as saying: "Both sides welcome and support Vietnam Airlines' intention to begin direct flights between the UK and Viet Nam, which will have a favourable effect on trade, investment, as well as tourism and education co-operation".
Rob Lally, deputy director of the UK Trade and Investment in Asia organisation, said an increasing number of British investors were looking to do business in Viet Nam. "All we want to do is help improve the business network and direct flights will help," he said, adding that he hoped Viet Nam would become a tourism hub for holidaymakers wishing to travel to Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.
A number of British business people, including those in the travel industry, attended the workshop.
Paul Smith from Harvey Nash Outsourcing Company said he expected the Vietnamese economy to grow significantly over the next five years and that direct flights would be "a return investment".
Vietnam Airlines plans to use B777-200ER for direct services to London. Initially, there will be four flights a week, rising to seven by 2014. Last year, the airline carried 12.3 million passengers and earned a revenue of US$1.9 billion.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News