VNExpress_Airlines carry freight, charter flights to survive Covid hit
Airlines have strengthened freight services and offer charter services and discounts on passenger fares as they seek to recover from the slump caused by Covid-19.
Vietnam Airlines recently converted one of its Boeing 787-9 aircraft to transport 40 tonnes of lychee from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Before the pandemic its Dreamliners had a busy schedule, flying to Europe, Australia and the ultra busy Hanoi-HCMC sector, and few thought lychees will replace passengers on the modern airplane with a capacity up to 270. The carrier has also deployed other planes to transport lychee. Budget airline Vietjet has also been offering freight services to compete with leading logistic providers as demand balloons by the day. It has set up an online freight service, Swift247, in which it owns a 67 percent stake. In the first three months of 2021, Vietjet transported over 18,000 tonnes of cargo, with its cargo subsidiary contributing nearly 50 percent of total revenues. Since May, Bamboo Airways has been offer charter flights. To compete in the summer, the high season for air travel, carriers have offered big discounts on fares and promotions like free check-in baggage to attract customers back. Bamboo Airways reduced fares by 35 percent when booking five seats or more. Vietjet offered free insurance to all domestic passengers, including VND1 million compensation per day for loss of income in case of forced quarantine or Covid-19 infection as a result of traveling with it. Newcomer Vietravel Airlines, which has a fleet of three airplanes, is pricing tickets at below breakeven level, according to Nguyen Quoc Ky, its chairman. Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet have joined the effort to trial a vaccine passport. Next month, Vietnam Airlines will implement the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass initiative that allows people to store verified Covid-19 test and vaccination certificates on a smartphone app. This is seen as one of the keys to convincing countries to reopen borders to international travelers. According to Planespotters, an online database on commercial aviation based in Berlin, Germany, over half of all aircraft in Vietnam are idling in near-empty airports. Vietnam Airlines is currently operating only 47 of its over 100 planes, including 15 of its 29 wide-body airplanes (A350 and B787). In the case of Vietjet Air, over 50 out of its 74 airplanes are not flying. In the first quarter, Vietnam Airlines suffered losses of nearly VND5 trillion ($218,4 million). To generate sufficient cash flows, it is now selling 11 of its A321 CEO planes. Bamboo Airways has the least number of idle aircraft, nine out of 27.