Vietnam Airlines looks to grow its international network

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Vietnam Airlines is planning to grow its international network over the next two years, with greater China, India, the Middle East and Europe in its sights.

"We support the Vietnamese government's plans to negotiate new air services agreements, leading to open skies with several countries," its CEO Pham Ngoc Minh says. "That will give us more markets."

In the near term, Vietnam Airlines will look at how it can open up new services or add frequencies to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, Pham says.

In 2013, the airline will look at starting services to India and the Middle East where there is plenty of "room for growth" from Vietnam, he says.

Vietnam Airlines serves London, Frankfurt and Paris, and is looking at new services to Berlin, Amsterdam and Milan.

Its services to London, which began in December, have an average load factor of around 60%, which is less than the 80-82% that the airline has to Paris and Frankfurt, Pham says. However, the SkyTeam alliance member is committed to the service, he adds.

"Unfortunately, because of the eurozone crisis, there is turbulence. We also know that competition is fierce and strong in that market, but we have no plans to abandon that route.

"Vietnam Airlines does not stop because of a crisis, although we may reduce the frequency during the low season. From 2013, when the markets are recovering, we will see how we can pick this up and add more frequency into London," Pham says.

There are still no plans to offer direct services to the USA, which is currently served via a partnership with fellow SkyTeam member Delta Air Lines.

"With SkyTeam, we have managed to open up our network via interline and codeshare partnerships. These increased by 40% last year and will continue to grow," he adds.

With Southeast Asia, Pham is cautious about plans to implement an open skies agreement by 2015. With different members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) at "different stages" in the development of their airline industries, this must be a "gradual" development, he says.

"This is still being debated and this must be a gradual process. All of the countries are at different stage[s]. Look at Cambodia, which is still building up its airline with our help. We must support them in their effort, and that can fail if there is open competition suddenly," Pham says. "We must respect the interest of each of the airlines."