United States officials decided last week to let Vietnam fly passenger airplanes directly to U.S. airports. The decision is seen as another sign of international recognition for the Southeast Asian country.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on February 14 that it has awarded a “Category 1” rating for Vietnam. The rating means that Vietnamese companies have met international guidelines for air safety. And Vietnamese airlines can get permits from the FAA to fly directly to the United States and “carry the codes of U.S. carriers.”
Vietnam’s Communist Party news website Nhan Dan reported that Vietnamese officials began working toward this goal in 2012. They set out to solve 49 safety problems that the FAA found a year later, the website said.
The FAA said its “Category 1” rating for Vietnam is based on an assessment made in August 2018. In order to keep the rating, Vietnam must follow international safety standards for aircraft operations and maintenance.
Adam McCarthy is chief economist with Mekong Economics, a development advisory service based in Hanoi. He noted, “It’s been a slow and progressive bringing back [of] Vietnam into the international community.”
Bigger economy, more fliers
Last month, Vietnam officially joined the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership. The trade agreement covers about 13.5 percent of the world economy. The European Union is also expected to negotiate its own trade deal with Vietnam.
These developments are expected to bring additional investment to the Vietnamese economy. Foreign investment has fueled Vietnam’s economic growth of 6 to 7 percent a year since 2012.
The growth is set to expand the middle class to about one-third of the country’s 93 million population by next year, the Boston Consulting Group estimates. And Vietnamese are spending some of their new wealth on airfares.
In 2017, Vietnam had 94 million air passengers, including 13 million foreign nationals. That was 16 percent higher than the number a year earlier. The International Air Transport Association projects the country will become the world’s fifth fastest growing aviation market by 2035.
Returnees, students and business travelers
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the United States is home to about 2.1 million people of Vietnamese ancestry in 2017. Many came after the former, U.S.-supported South Vietnam lost to the Communist north in the 1970s.
Song Seng Wun is an economist with CIMB in Singapore. He said, “There are [Vietnamese] residents in the U.S. itself, so that alone would be good enough for airline connections if they see fit to.”
The Nhan Dan website noted that about 30,000 Vietnamese students travel to the United States each year. And there will be more travelers as trade between the two countries expands.
In the past, American carriers, such as United Airlines and Delta Airlines, operated direct flights to Vietnam. But they suspended those flights because of cost consideration.
In addition to the national carrier Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and Bamboo Airways have also included flights to the U.S. in their plans. However, the companies will need to add airplanes that can fly non-stop to the U.S.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on VOA News, Nhan Dan and FAA reports. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
code - n. a set of letters, numbers, symbols that identifies something, like airplanes
assessment - n. the act of making a judgement about something
maintenance - n. the act of keeping property or equipment in good condition by making repairs, correcting problems, etc.
aviation - n. the business or practice of flying airplanes, helicopters, etc.