Hanoi's Gia Lam airport may re-open to commercial flights

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A general aviation airport located around 4km from the centre of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi might be opened for commercial aviation.

Director of air transportation at the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) Thanh Suan Lai says the authority is seeking approval to develop Hanoi’s Gia Lam airport into a domestic commercial aviation airport.

“We have a plan to reconstruct [develop] the airport for commercial aviation,” Thanh says from Hanoi.

“Because the airport is near to downtown…and the runway is only 1,800m (5,900ft) long ” CAAV only plans to allow small commercial aircraft in addition to general aviation aircraft.

“It will be for small aircraft…such as the ATR 72,” says Thanh, adding that the authorities might also allow narrowbody jet aircraft such as Boeing 737s but might have to impose weight and passenger load restrictions. Vietnam Airlines is the only airline in the country that owns ATR 72s.

“We don’t want to restrict [narrowbody aircraft] types” but the aircraft need to be suitable for the length of runway, says Thanh, who is adamant there are no plans to extend the runway.

“I am afraid the runway can’t be [extended] because the airport is close to downtown city so it is very restricted. I don’t think we have the space for a runway extension,” he says.

Gia Lam was a commercial airport in the 1970s and Thanh says that “if we can use Gia Lam it will be better for passengers” as it is close to the centre of Hanoi, whereas Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport is about a 1hr drive away.

“Until now…I don’t have any concrete plans from the airlines,” says Thanh, when asked which airlines plan to operate to the smaller airport.

He also says “the timing [for construction to commence] has not been fixed yet because we have to get the permission from the Vietnam prime minister”.

To begin with “the airport can use the old terminal [dating from the 1970s] but for the masterplan…I think we shall build a new passenger terminal”, he adds.