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Vietnam is a country on the rise. Its economy has experienced years of economic growth and reports suggest that it will become the fastest growing emerging economy in the near future. The government and private enterprise have realised the key role that aviation will play in the economic development of the country and moves are already underway for innovative partnerships between the state and private companies to develop Vietnam’s aviation infrastructure with the view to becoming a regional hub for both passenger and cargo services. Alongside this development, the state has moved to significantly deregulate aviation with the monopoly once enjoyed by Vietnam Airlines now open to competition from new domestic carrier Jetstar Pacific and other regional LCCs Jetstar Asia, Tiger Airways and AirAsia. The state owned Vietnam Airlines is ambitious and has its sights set on becoming a major force on the global aviation stage. Vietnam Airlines operates an extensive route network from its hubs at Noi Bai International Airport and Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Airports in Vietnam
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Etihad has launched services to Ho Chi Minh, becoming only the tenth non-Asian airline serving Vietnam. Abu Dhabi is now one of only seven destinations outside Asia-Pacific that are served non-stop from Vietnam.
Vietnam remains an under-served long-haul market with huge potential. But Gulf carriers have been quick to recognise the opportunities in Vietnam and are now among Vietnam’s largest international carriers.
Etihad follows rival Emirates, which launched services to Ho Chi Minh in Jun-2012. Qatar began serving Ho Chi Minh in 2009 and added Hanoi in late 2010. It is now Vietnam’s third largest foreign carrier.
Southeast Asia airline market sees more rapid growth & high international low-cost penetration rates
Southeast Asia continues to post some of the highest growth rates in the global aviation industry, driven primarily by expansion in the region’s booming low-cost sector.
LCCs now account for over 50% of capacity in Southeast Asia’s four largest domestic markets – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Even more impressively, LCCs have been able to rapidly claim about a 50% share in the intra-Southeast Asia international market.
But there has also been growth in 2013 at nearly all of the region’s flag carriers. A large portion of this growth has been on regional routes as full-service operators have been able to join the LCCs in taking advantage of the generally favourable economic conditions in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam’s VietJet Air has become the latest Asian low-cost carrier group to announce a major aircraft order in support of an ambition to build a portfolio of LCC affiliates.
VietJet’s commitment to buy 62 A320 family aircraft may be small in comparison to the massive orders placed by AirAsia and Lion in recent years. But it is significant in that it shows VietJet is serious in becoming a pan-Asia player, following the model of AirAsia, Jetstar, Lion and Tigerair.
AirAsia, Lion, Tigerair and Jetstar operate across Asia-Pacific and dominate the Southeast Asian LCC market, accounting for about 77% of LCC seat capacity and 75% of the ASEAN-based LCC fleet. While Southeast Asia is a large and fast-growing market, five is a potentially unsustainable number of LCC groups, particularly when taking into account some of the countries also have very strong independent LCCs.
Southeast Asia continues to experience rapid LCC expansion even though some key markets are approaching saturation. The region’s LCC fleet is poised to grow by about 20% in 2013, approaching 500 aircraft at year-end. With some of the largest airline orders in recent years coming from ASEAN-focused LCC groups, rapid growth for the sector is assured for the medium to long term.
The LCC penetration rate within Southeast Asia is now above 50%, having steadily increased over the last 10 years from less than 5% in 2003. Even in the intra-Southeast Asia international market, which is about one-third the size of the region’s domestic market, LCCs now account for 50% of total seat capacity – a remarkable figure given that ASEAN has not yet moved to a single market concept like the EU.
Opportunities still remain for LCC market share gains in some countries, particularly Myanmar and Vietnam. These important pioneer markets have the lowest LCC penetration rates among the seven main ASEAN countries but LCC start-ups from both countries are expanding rapidly.
VietJet is pursuing further network expansion over the next few months as the carrier looks to cement its position as the leading low-cost carrier in the Vietnamese market. VietJet is adding three more domestic routes for a total of 14 and is also preparing to launch services to Seoul, which would be its second international destination after Bangkok.
VietJet overtook Jetstar Pacific as Vietnam’s largest LCC less than one year after its 25-Dec-2011 launch. By its second-year anniversary at the end of 2013 the carrier will account for over 25% of capacity in the domestic market and have a fleet of 10 A320s – on both counts double the size of Jetstar Pacific.
But Jetstar Pacific is finally preparing a response as the Jetstar Group affiliate plans to launch international services by the end of 2013 and pursue domestic expansion. Jetstar Pacific and its majority owner Vietnam Airlines have done little so far to try to combat VietJet’s rapid ascent. If VietJet continues to expand quickly a response is inevitable although VietJet could try to avoid a potential conflict by focusing more on expanding planned joint ventures in other Asian markets.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) is preparing an ambitious expansion to Europe made possible after the carrier was recently removed from the EU’s list of banned airlines. PAL plans to launch non-stop services to Europe within the next few months and serve up to five Western European destinations in the near to medium term.
But PAL faces huge challenges in trying to carve out a sustainable niche in the Southeast Asia-Europe market. PAL and another Southeast Asian flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, are both entering the market just as competition intensifies and while the European economy remains relatively weak.
PAL and Garuda will need to overcome three much larger Southeast Asian flag carriers which are well established in the European market along with two smaller ASEAN competitors. European and Gulf carriers also continue to expand in the Europe-Southeast Asia market, making it even tougher for a new entrant.