Vietnam lifts social distancing restrictions on aircraft

Aircraft at Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCMC during the nationwide social distancing period, April 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

VN Express– Vietnamese carriers will be allowed to remove social distancing restrictions on aircraft and limitations on the number of passengers starting Thursday.

The Transport Ministry also approved the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam’s (CAAV) proposal to lift limitations on flight frequency for carriers. They can increase flights on routes linked to Hanoi, HCMC and Da Nang depending on demand.

Passengers on planes are currently required to sit one seat apart. Only families and people booking tickets together can sit next to each other. Local carriers are required to make sure the number of passengers not exceed 80 percent of the number of seats.

While the distancing restrictions on aircraft are lifted, passengers are still required to keep a distance of one meter from each other while going through procedures at airports until boarding.

The CAAV early this week had proposed that from May 5, the daily frequency of flights on the Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City route be increased to 52 flights both ways instead of the current 36, and to Da Nang from either city to 20 from 12.

During the recent four-day holiday marking the Reunification Day (April 30) and May Day, Vietnamese carriers reported a 70-80 percent load factor on the Hanoi – HCMC route and 60-70 percent on flights to Da Nang.

With international flights and entry of foreigners still suspended, Vietnamese airlines are looking to better exploit the domestic market potential as many top tourist destinations reopened after a prolonged shutdown.

Vietnam has banned entry by foreign nationals since March 22 with exceptions and conditions, including 14-day quarantining on arrival. Since March 25, international flights have been suspended to prevent the spread of the virus.

The aviation industry has been severely hit by the pandemic, and a recovery is only likely at the end of the year, the transport ministry has said. The number of air passengers this year could fall by 46 percent to 43 million, it said.

The ministry has also decided to remove social distancing limitations on buses, taxi, trains and ships starting Thursday.

The country recorded no fresh Covid-19 case Wednesday, meaning it remained clear of community transmissions for 20 consecutive days. The Covid-19 tally was 271, with 39 still under treatment.

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